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Dark Tongs of Chinatown Part 1 - A Demon in San Francisco

Max_Writer

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Monday, March 19, 2018

 

(After playing the Call of Cthulhu Down Darker Trails Catastrophe Engine Campaign original scenario “Dark Tongs of Chinatown†based on The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. episode “And Baby Makes Three†as well as Big Trouble in Little China Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. with Ashton LeBlanc, Collin Townsend, Ben Abbott, John Leppard, Yorie Latimer, and Kyle Matheson.)

 

In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 22, 1875, the Sequoyah Star limped into San Miguel, California, after being attacked and partially damaged by raiders in Palonio Pass. The train offloaded several passengers and the crewmen got to work on repairs as well as filling up with more water and coal. The express car had to have both doors replaced quickly and the town marshal handed over two deputies to help guard Dan McGoohan for the rest of the trip.

 

Though the train was a little late leaving the station, she managed to keep close to her schedule of leaving by 4:51 a.m.

 

Dr. Eva Weisswald, Wilder, Jacali, and Lambert Otto did not remain on the train when it left. Each of them asked for their horses to be removed. Then they headed back the way they’d come, hoping to return to the place where the Crescent had fallen off the train with Jack Parker. They reached the location in the early morning hours just after the sun came up.

 

They found the only large railroad trestle. The river below it was a raging torrent, probably a flash flood brought on by rain in the nearby mountains. They made their way down to the water’s edge. There was no sign of Parker or the Crescent. They headed downstream for over an hour before Dr. Weisswald pointed out a likely spot for a body or debris to wash ashore.

 

There, they found boot prints leaving the water. Otto noticed they were not very deep, almost as if the man was walking on top of the mud instead of sinking down into the mud. He pointed that out. The prints only went a little ways before they simply stopped, almost as if the person had been taken up into the sky. Jacali looked around for a pile of ash but didn’t find one. She wondered if he had grown wings.

 

They returned to San Miguel and got tickets for San Francisco, reaching the city by late that evening. Dr. Weisswald tended to Jacali’s wounds on the trip.

 


* * *

 

 

 


Professor Stalloid had continued on to San Francisco on the Sequoyah Star. The train was only a little late for its further stops. When they arrived at the city, the single injured lawman and two surviving bandits, along with Marshal Clayton Pierce and Jack West were taken to various hospitals in the city.

 

Professor Stalloid had found his medicine wagon and horses waiting at the station, held by a boy who had probably been hired for the task by his maid.

 

“Good job, boy!†he said.

 

He gave the boy a dollar. The child looked at it and then at Professor Stalloid. He got the man’s name and address and told him if he ever needed anything, he was his boy!

 

He paid for Marshal Pierce’s hospital bills, repaying the man for saving his life. He remembered screaming at the horrible creature on top of the lounge car and Marshal Pierce pulling him back and shoving him into one of the seats in the dining car. Professor Stalloid had also neglected to return Professor Terwilliger’s lightning gun, hiding it in his luggage after the attack.

 

He returned to his house on Nob Hill in San Francisco. It was one of the many being erected in one of the nicer neighborhoods of the city. The only other resident of the large structure was Chun Zhi Ruo, the Chinese maid who had helped raise him. Professor Stalloid’s parents, who had originally lived in the house, had died some years before of cholera, leaving only the maid as his family.

 

He had looked into getting the scroll he’d brought from Midnight translated. He first asked Chun Zhi Ruo but her English was not great. He also looked into St. Ignatius College and Heald College, as well. He was referred to Chinatown and even given the name of a lawyer in the neighborhood who was known to be fluent in English and Chinese: Li Wei. Both colleges were willing to keep the scroll if he wished to donate it.

 


* * *

 

 

 


Lambert Otto had arranged to get the bounties for the dead and dying bandits. He got a total of $1,175 for the five men who had been part of the attack. He divided up the money four ways, giving $285 to Marshal Pierce, West, Wilder, and keeping one share for himself

 


* * *

 

 

 


The railroad gave $100 to each of the people who had tried to defend the train from the bandits in a small ceremony with long speeches held in San Francisco later that week. They learned from various newspapers in the city that an additional $900 in gold and an undisclosed amount of uncut diamonds had also been transported on the train, as well at $50,000 in gold transported secretly by the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

 


* * *

 

 

 


The others learned of where Professor Stalloid lived and the man was gracious enough to offer them rooms at his house while they were in the city. His large house stood in one of the nicest parts of town and included a very large backyard and carriage house and stables.

 

When Otto paid Wilder part of the bounty, Dr. Weisswald frowned and wondered about her own share of helping people captured the bandits on the train.

 


* * *

 

 

 


On the evening of Thursday, May 27, 1875, they all met for dinner. They all officially met Chun Zhi Ruo, who served them dinner. She and Professor Stalloid treated each other like family.

 

They told Professor Stalloid everything that happened on the train he had not seen. He was surprised to hear the Secret Service seemed to carry cameras and wondered about the connection of the Secret Service metal boxes and Professor Terwilliger’s lightning gun.

 

“That man who touched the Crescent … his tracks disappeared from the water as if he spread wings,†Jacali told them.

 

“Oh … God!†Professor Stalloid said. “Floated away.â€

 

“Or he disappeared …†Otto said.

 

“If he turned to ash, the ash might’ve blown away,†Professor Stalloid asked. “But then where was the Crescent? Where was the Crescent?â€

 

“We didn’t find it,†Jacali said.

 

“Where’s the Crescent?â€

 

“It was nowhere to be seen, down by the river,†Jacali said.

 

“Something got out of the river though,†Otto said. “It didn’t look like to be him. The tracks were too light.â€

 

Professor Stalloid postulated Jack Parker might have been floating as Jacali did that time when they first met.

 

“She was lighter than air,†he said.

 

“Who said I was floating?†Jacali said.

 

“Floating?†Otto said. “What about floating?â€

 

“Nobody floating,†she said.

 

“He said gloating,†Wilder said.

 

“Yeah, I said gloating,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“He said gloating,†Wilder said.

 

“Yes, I gloat normally,†Jacali said. “I am proud. And rude. I do not float, though. That’s for sure.â€

 

“Like the other woman, then?†Otto said.

 

“The other … who?â€

 

“I don’t think I ever actually got her name. The other Indian woman on the train. She insulted me.â€

 

“Do you mean Rhymes with Wolf?â€

 

“Yes.â€

 

“Oh, I love Rhymes with Wolf.â€

 

“Yeah, she called me ugly.â€

 

“Oh. Well, I’m terribly sorry, Otto.â€

 

“Well, thank you.â€

 

They decided to go to Chinatown that afternoon.

 


* * *

 

 

 


Li Wei was a Chinese lawyer. He had a small, secondary office in Chinatown that he used for dealing with his own people. He had a house and a larger office elsewhere in the city, wherein he took rich, white clients. With the money he made there, he often gave his services away pro bono to the poor and destitute, particularly those in Chinatown who needed representation more anyway. He did everything from litigation over land rights or property rights all the way up to criminal cases. The Chinese were treated poorly in San Francisco by the whites and there were several anti-Chinese societies in the city as well, some of whom had spread rumors and lies about disease in Chinatown in an effort to rid the city of Chinese.

 

There was a light knock at his tiny office door just as he was ready to close up for the day.

 

“Come in,†he said in English.

 


* * *

 

 

 


Professor Stalloid opened the shabby door to a small but cleanly kept and humble office with a single desk behind which sat a plump, well-groomed Chinese man in a suit. He had a mustache and a thick shock of hair atop his head. An empty chair stood on the near side of the desk. The Chinese man looked at Professor Stalloid with surprise.

 

“Hello. Brandon Stalloid!†Professor Stalloid entered the room holding out his hand. “Child savior! Healer of men and women!â€

 

“Child savior?†Mr. Li said.

 

“Child savior!â€

 

“How many children have you saved?â€

 

“Hundreds! Thousands even!â€

 

The Chinese man leaned down to jot a note on a piece of paper on the desk.

 

“I’m in the need of a translator,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Well, I’m a lawyer,†Mr. Li said.

 

“Can you do translations?â€

 

“Of course.â€

 

“I’ll pay you well.â€

 

“How well?â€

 

“Ten dollars a day with a $50 bonus when you finish.â€

 

Professor Stalloid took out a very old scroll and showed it to the man.

 

“So, you want me to translate for $10 a day?†Mr. Li said.

 

“Yes,†Professor Stalloid said. “And $50 when you finish.â€

 

“Fifty dollars base pay when I finish … with that scroll?â€

 

“Yes. Added on to the $10 a day.â€

 

“Where did you get that scroll?â€

 

“A crazy lady.â€

 

“A crazy Chinese lady?â€

 

“No, a crazy white lady.â€

 

“Because all Chinese are crazy?â€

 

“No, you’re not crazy.â€

 

“That you know of.â€

 

“Yeah.â€

 

“Why would you come to a lawyer to get a translation?â€

 

“I was told you’re the best in the town.â€

 

“At translating?â€

 

“Yes.â€

 

“Who told you?â€

 

“The people at the college and the locals.â€

 

“May I take a look at the scroll?â€

 

Professor Stalloid handed over the scroll and Mr. Li opened it carefully and found it was deceptively long with the Chinese characters written upon it in a very small and tight, though very neat hand. He realized it would take several weeks, if not months to translate it. The title listed it as The First Book of the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan. He had never heard of it. He knew it would take at least a couple of days to skim it and then the translation could take weeks.

 

“When were you wanting this translated by?†he asked. “This shall take me much time.â€

 

“Take your time,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Take my time. At ten dollars a day.â€

 

“Within reason.â€

 

“‘Within reason,’ he says. Why do you want this translated?â€

 

“I’m curious.â€

 

“Curious of … what? It is just a scroll.â€

 

“I mean, it could have unknown cultural impacts.â€

 

“Do you want to know of the Chinese culture? I could teach you. Without having to translate this scroll.â€

 

“This could be lost … lost knowledge.â€

 

“You believe that there is a Chinese treasure hidden in this scroll?â€

 

“Possibly.â€

 

“We do not put our treasures in scrolls.â€

 

“A treasure of knowledge.â€

 

“A treasure of knowledge. I will translate this for you … in my time, as you have said.â€

 

“Of course. I don’t want to interfere with your work.â€

 

“My work is for the people and you are one of the people so … I shall translate this for you but know that justice comes first, not scroll translating.â€

 

Jacali had taken a seat as they talked. She was still badly injured from her encounters on the Sequoyah Star. Mr. Li looked at the woman and frowned.

 

“Did this white man beat you for the scroll?†he asked.

 

“No, because otherwise he would be dead,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“I wish he had been the one beating me,†Jacali said. “That would be interesting.â€

 

“He claims to be a child savior,†Mr. Li said. “He said nothing of women.â€

 

“I said ‘Healer of men and women,’†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Men and women,†Mr. Li said. “Men first, of course, as the white men see.â€

 

“They have to be hurt before you can heal them, though,†Dr. Weisswald quipped.

 

“I’m just going in alphabetical order, okay?†Professor Stalloid said. “Children. Men. Women.â€

 

“Are these your …?†Mr. Li asked.

 

“Companions!â€

 

“Companions?â€

 

“Companions of fate!â€

 

“Companions of fate?â€

 

“We don’t say we’re traveling together to each other but we somehow keep traveling together.â€

 

“So, you have not known each other for a long time?â€

 

“No.â€

 

“A few days, I’d reckon,†Otto said.

 

“You are … you are a very different-looking group,†Mr. Li said. “I must say.â€

 

“We have been through some strange things together,†Jacali said.

 

“You especially,†Mr. Li said.

 

“Oh yes.â€

 

“Have you had that treated? I know a person who could help you.â€

 

“Oh yes, I have a very good doctor who I owe many debts.â€

 

She looked at Dr. Weisswald and smiled.

 

“Well, if you are ever in Chinatown, go find Dr. Wong Chi,†Mr. Li said. “He will give you good medicine for a cheap price.â€

 

“Thank you very much,†Jacali said.

 

“Especially because you are not white.â€

 

“I am Jacali.â€

 

Mr. Li handed out a business card to each of them. They had his information in both English and Chinese.

 

“A card for each of you,†he said. “My services are cheap and fair.â€

 

“I cannot read this,†Jacali said.

 

She handed the card back to the man. She could not read English or Chinese.

 

Professor Stalloid gave the lawyer one of his cards and the man looked at it carefully.

 

“Oh, now I know where I have heard of you,†Mr. Li said. “The Chinese people speak of you. You come to Chinatown. Spend big money. Win a lot.â€

 

“Yeah,†Professor Stalloid said. “Uh … from time to time.â€

 

“But you also help the Chinese.â€

 

“Why, I help the community.â€

 

“Yes, those that are in need, of course. You have my respect, Brandon Stalloid. I will translate this scroll twice as fast as I was going to.â€

 


* * *

 

 

 


They headed back towards Nob Hill but got a little turned around and slipped through Stout’s Alley not far from Mr. Li’s office. As they walked down the dim alley they thought they heard a cry of someone in distress. Dr. Weisswald broke into a run, followed closely by Otto. They ran around a corner down another alley where they heard the sound of people fighting.

 


* * *

 

 

 


Mr. Li had left the office almost directly after the crowd of people had been there, walking down the street towards his home. As he reached a narrow street called Church Court, he heard a cry of distress. He headed down that way, taking out his blackjack and his .31 Colt Pocket pistol and running down the narrow street surrounded by tall buildings.

 


* * *

 

 

 


The scene was one of chaos where Church Court turned as two groups of Chinese men wearing different colors of clothing and different badges were fighting hand-to-hand without weapons. They seemed intent on hurting each other in the lantern-lit area. Dr. Weisswald stopped when she saw the scene, lurking in the shadows as there were at least 40 men in the alley, fighting using open fists. Some were being hurt but all of them were obviously well-versed in their style of fighting.

 

Tall buildings stood on either side of them, most of them boasting closed storefronts with windows above where Chinese people quickly closed sashes or even shutters, obviously not wanting to get involved. Then they saw Mr. Li run into the fray.

 


* * *

 

 

 


Li Wei recognized what was going on as soon as he reached the fight. Two Chinese tongs were combating each other.

 

The tongs had initially been benevolent societies formed some 20 years before, groups with benevolent goals to help the Chinese and other Orientals there. However, over time, all of the tongs eventually turned to crime as the best way to achieve their goals. Prostitution, gambling, opium, and protection were their main forms of crime. Though some had some legitimate business interests as well, all participated in crime.

 

He had heard of small scuffles, fights, and even sometimes murders between tong members but never a huge, all-out fight like the one he saw in the alley.

 

He ran to the edge of the fray and fired his pistol into the air.

 

“Please stop fighting!†he yelled in Chinese.

 

The fighting stopped for a moment and then two of the men came to him, one from each of the tongs. They got in his face and yelled at him. It was hard to understand the two as they argued against each other and at him. He understand that each of the men thought the other tong had dishonored theirs and that they must be stopped. Each of them claimed the other group had the child though he was not sure what that was about. The two men shoved at each other as they yelled at him. They poked him in the chest as they each accused the other of stealing the child. They also mentioned there were white men involved.

 

The rest of them started fighting again.

 

“We are brothers!†he said in Chinese.

 


* * *

 

 

 


The fighting continued and Jacali, Wilder, and Otto heard what sounded like chanting coming from the roof of a nearby building. Professor Stalloid though he heard someone coming down the alley behind them. He turned and looked back the way they’d come. Dr. Weisswald looked at him.

 

Jacali looked up and saw some kind of light on the roof. She pointed up.

 

“There’s a light on top of the roof!†she said. “And I hear chanting.â€

 

They looked up and saw the light.

 

“The echoes must have sounded like footsteps,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

Otto went to the door of the building but found it locked and all of the windows nearby locked and shuttered closed. Professor Stalloid didn’t think there would be another door so he knocked upon the locked one.

 

Dr. Weisswald and Wilder realized the blows were meant to be lethal blows though the warriors of both sides were very good at hand-to-hand and only a few were not blocked. They both waited to see if they could help any of the injured.

 


* * *

 

 

 


Mr. Li still had trouble getting anything cognizant out of the two tong members. One accused the other of releasing the demon that was loose in Chinatown and the other said that was the other tong’s fault. There was more shouting and talk of the child.

 

“We can settle this with the law,†Mr. Li said. “Two people can both be right.â€

 

He tried to calm the two men down. They stopped pushing each other. They continued to argue with and glare at each other though. He learned one of the tongs was called The Rightful Spirit Tong and the other was The Clean and Pure Serenity Tong. He recognized both and knew they ran brothels in Chinatown. He wondered if they were talking about a child prostitute. He thought about his own daughter, only five years old, and how he would feel if two tongs who ran brothels were fighting over her.

 

“I know I said that sometimes two people can be right,†he said. “But now, after hearing all of this, two people can also be wrong. You should not be having child prostitutes and fighting over them.â€

 

The two men stopped arguing, completely confused by what he said.

 

“Maybe I am misguided, but also, child prostitutes are wrong,†he said.

 


* * *

 

 

 


Professor Stalloid found a drainpipe and tried to climb it without luck. Unfortunately, the pipe was slick and nasty and smelled of urine.

 

Dr. Weisswald ran to the other end of the building to look for another door.

 

There was a scream as something horrible crawled down the side of the building. The thing climbed, headfirst, down the side, a gigantic, blasphemous form not wholly ape and not wholly insect. Its hide hung loosely upon its frame and its rugose, dead-eyed rudiment of a head swayed drunkenly from side to side. It’s forepaws were extended with talons spread wide, and its whole body was taut with murderous malignity despite its utter lack of facial description.

 

“Oh dear God, not again!†Jacali muttered.

 

Otto drew his sword and watched the terrible thing.

 

Wilder stared at the horrible thing for a moment and then a red mist seemed to descend over him. He wanted to destroy anything and everything. Jacali stood next to him and he turned to her, lowered his head and ground his teeth together. He punched her in the side. It was just a glancing blow but when she looked at him she realized he wanted to kill her. She backed away from the man.

 

“Wilder, you look very much like a bear now,†she said to the man. “Please become less like that. You’re scaring me, Wilder.â€

 

The man stalked after her, thick in the throes of madness.

 


* * *

 

 

 


Mr. Li saw the horrible thing crawl down the wall and suddenly a dark cloud fell upon him and everything went black. He blinked and even held his hand in front of his face but could see nothing. He had been stricken blind. He was confused for a moment.

 


* * *

 

 

 


Otto backed away from the thing as it crawled down the side of the building and then leapt to the street and entered the tong fray. It tore into the men who were wearing one of the colors and symbols.

 

Wilder shook his head and blinked his eyes. He did not know why he had been convinced Jacali needed to die.

 

“I was not … myself …†he said. “I apologize.â€

 

“Would you say you got a little wild?†Jacali quipped.

 

“Yes.â€

 

“A little wilder?â€

 

The screams coming from the alley further on, where the horrible beast was ripping men to pieces or cutting them open or broke their legs or bodies, continued.

 

Professor Stalloid was terrified. He thought he recognized the thing though he couldn’t remember if the knowledge came from the book he’d read in Midnight or simply something he seemed to know of his own accord, perhaps a terrible racial memory. He thought it was called a dimensional shambler or a thing from between the stars. It was a horrible thing from between time and space that could come and go between the real world and nowhere whenever it wanted. It was strong and terrible and could even drag men away to where it had come from, never to be seen again. It could be summoned by powerful sorcerers to perform a service.

 


* * *

 

 

 


The noises Mr. Li heard were horrifying and indicative of men dying nearby. He took a defensive stance, tucking his pistol back in his pocket but holding the blackjack, and blinked his eyes but still could not see. He tried to listen to hear exactly what was going on around him. There seemed to be a lot of screaming.

 

Then he could suddenly see.

 


* * *

 

 

 


Dr. Weisswald ran back to see the horrible thing tearing through the tong members. It was not attacking the members of one of the tongs, only the others, who had broken their ranks and, for the most part, were fleeing the alley in terror. The side it was leaving alone fled as well, rushing right by her and the others in their attempt to escape an alley which had become an abattoir.

 

Professor Stalloid got a good look at the badge of the side the horror was not touching. He whipped out his leather-bound journal and quickly drew a sketch of the device.

 

The thing grabbed another of the opposing tong members and then both of them shimmered and seemed to pull apart, shattering and scattering for a moment before they were both gone.

 

It was completely quiet.

 

Dr. Weisswald ran into the battlefield followed by Wilder and Otto. They saw Mr. Li standing in the alley nearby but ignored him as the doctor and the mountain man ran to the injured and dying tong members. Professor Stalloid moved to Mr. Li who eyed him suspiciously.

 

“What are you writing, there?†Mr. Li said.

 

Professor Stalloid showed him the Chinese symbol he’d written down.

 

“This is the symbol of the Rightful Spirit Tong,†Mr. Li said. “You can write that down as well.â€

 

Professor Stalloid did so.

 

“The first time I see you in Chinatown, in my office, and this happens,†Mr. Li said. “Did you cause this, white man?â€

 

“Not as far as I know,†Professor Stalloid said. “I don’t like that thing. I’d say he lives between the stars. I don’t live between the stars. I don’t want to be between the stars.â€

 

“You knew what that thing was?â€

 

“Somehow …â€

 

Professor Stalloid frowned. He looked disturbed.

 

“You don’t know how you know what it was?†Mr. Li said.

 

“No,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“You are crazy. I don’t know that I will translate that scroll now.â€

 

Dr. Weisswald and Wilder had moved to the fallen men while the two talked. Of the five horribly injured men, they found two of them alive and quickly bound their wounds as best they could.

 

“These men require medical attention,†Mr. Li said when he saw the survivors. “We must get them to safety.â€

 

“Well, then you’re in luck, sir,†Jacali said.

 

“Why is that?â€

 

“Weisswald’s the best doctor in the west.â€

 

“Is that so? A traveling hospital?â€

 

“Well, it’s Stalloid here who’s my medicine, so I guess … kind of?†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“So, you are a group that goes from town to town, apparently knowing of demons,†Mr. Li said. “And saving people that are injured? Is that your goal?â€

 

“It’s not my goal,†Otto said.

 

“I still don’t really know who he is,†Professor Stalloid said, motioning towards Otto.

 

“I see that he has steel on his side,†Mr. Li said.

 

“He’s the wild card.â€

 

“The wild card?â€

 

“And you’re not?†Dr. Weisswald said to Wilder.

 

“It’s my good friend Wilder,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“I am usually assistant to the doctor,†Jacali said. “We have been tracking strange things.â€

 

“Strange things?†Mr. Li said.

 

“Yes,†Jacali said.

 

She took out the buffalo skin and rolled it open, showing it to the man in the dim light.

 

“This is a drawing of an object that we found and are seeking,†she said. “Lots of people want it and we don’t know what it does. Most people who touch it─â€

 

“Why yes,†Mr. Li said. “It is the moon that is in the night’s sky.â€

 

He pointed up and looked at the moon.

 

“I must tell you, it will be very hard to acquire the moon,†Mr. Li said, pointing and looking up again.

 

He noticed two men peering down at them from one of the nearby rooftops. The heads were quickly withdrawn.

 

“It will be hard to acquire the moon,†he muttered.

 

“Maybe I’ll show you this in a better light,†Jacali said.

 

Mr. Li shushed her.

 

“I feel we are being watched,†he said.

 

He looked at the building they had heard the chanting coming from earlier.

 

“There was a strange chanting coming from above,†Wilder said.

 

“I think that’s where the person that summoned the thing between the stars came from,†Professor Stalloid said. “Maybe they’re from between the stars.â€

 

“Why do you keep saying ‘the thing from between the stars?’†Mr. Li said. “Only thing between stars is more stars.â€

 

“And the moon.â€

 

“And the moon. Let us get these men to a hospital. Or, actually, I know a person we can take them to. And let us go back to my office and privacy so that we may talk.â€

 

They took the injured and the dead to the tiny office of Dr. Wong Chi, an older Chinese man in Chinese clothing wearing a bloody apron. He was a little, old balding man who didn’t speak any English at all. Mr. Li knew he did not have a license in the United States, but had been fully educated as a physician in China.

 

Dr. Wong led them into a shoddy-looking examination room and looked over the two men who yet lived. Chickens wandered around inside the room and it was fairly filthy. Mr. Li knew he took whatever anyone offered him for payment - such as the chickens. Dr. Weisswald noticed he had some good instruments. When Dr. Wong looked over the work they had already done, he seemed pleased by it.

 

“Somebody did a very good job with these men,†he told Mr. Li in Chinese. “I will see to them after this.â€

 

“A Chinese demon hurt these men,†Mr. Li said in Chinese.

 

“I heard a Chinese demon was here. Yes. There’s a demon running lose in Chinatown. Have you not heard?â€

 

“No.â€

 

“You are too busy. You are too busy.â€

 

“This white man knows of it.â€

 

“Did he bring it?â€

 

“I do not yet know.â€

 

Dr. Wong took out a scalpel and glared at Professor Stalloid who was writing in his book. Then he went back to dealing with the injured and the dead. He told Mr. Li he would find out who was related to the dead men and contact their families. Mr. Li gave him $25 for the help. Dr. Wong thanked him and tucked the money away.

 

They left and returned to Mr. Li’s office. Mr. Li entered last, shutting the door and locking it behind him. He stood in front of it so they couldn’t leave until they answered all his questions.

 

“You said that you knew what that thing was,†he said to Professor Stalloid. “But you don’t know how you know what it is. So, now you will tell me everything that you know.â€

 

Professor Stalloid started with the construction of atoms and how they were made up, slowly building towards the elements and the periodic table. Wilder put his hand on the man’s shoulder.

 

“I-I-I don’t believe he meant that far back,†he slowly said.

 

“Okay,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“But it was getting good,†Mr. Li said. “What about your companions? Do they know of this thing?â€

 

“I don’t think so,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“I’ve never seen it,†Jacali said. “And I wish I didn’t.â€

 

“I’ve never seen one either,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Nor have I,†Otto said.

 

“Does the thing that exists between the stars … is it trying to stop you all from taking the moon?†Mr. Li said.

 

“I don’t think so,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“It was a metal crescent,†Jacali said. “The drawing was bad.â€

 

“It was not the moon,†Mr. Li said.

 

“No,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“It was not the moon,†Jacali said.

 

“It was an effigy, possibly,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Honestly, the artist was probably very bad at artwork, because he’s not very patient and is not one to wait,†Jacali said.

 

“So, you seek a metal object?†Mr. Li said.

 

“Some call it the Crescent. The man who drew this called it the Horn. He was … a Native American man, a Paiute. He … attacked us with … strange things. Not like that but strange as well.â€

 

“You have seen creatures like that thing?â€

 

“That is why I’m injured.â€

 

“They had wings longer than a man,†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“I just saw the dead one,†Otto chimed in. “It melted away.â€

 

“One fell on me,†Jacali said. “I’m hurt … now. Because it fell on me. With its large body.â€

 

“I’m sorry,†Mr. Li said. “This is a lot to process. This is the first time I have seen something like this and I hope to never see something like this again.â€

 

“I was the same way, until it happened.â€

 

“I will not lie to you. What I saw today was terrifying. For a brief moment, I think my body shut down and I could not see anything. So, I do not want to look into this alone. Is there any chance that you … practiced individuals that have dealt with these things before … could maybe help me figure out why two tongs are using creatures to fight each other.â€

 

“For the right price,†Otto said.

 

“You speak of price,†Mr. Li said.

 

“I need money. I don’t know about these others.â€

 

“What good will money do if this world is fallen by these beasts.â€

 

“But I need money to continue my work.â€

 

“What is your work?â€

 

“Justice!â€

 

“This speaks to me. Are you a lawyer, such as I?â€

 

“No, I’m a bounty hunter.â€

 

“Then what justice do you know?â€

 

“I take criminals in so you can do your work.â€

 

“You do it for money. You do not do it for justice.â€

 

“I only do it so I can keep doing it. I don’t have a home. I need money to pay for food.â€

 

“You kill so you can keep killing?â€

 

“I try not to kill them. They’re worth more, usually.â€

 

“Am I the only one that understands this?â€

 

“I’ve known for a while,†Wilder said.

 

“The people chanting on the roof were probably the ones that summoned this … demon, so …†Dr. Weisswald said. “We need to stop them if we’re going to stop these killings.â€

 

“Do you know what the building was or who lives there?†Jacali asked.

 

Mr. Li told him there were some shops on the ground floor and cramped apartments above but dozens of people lived in or used the building. He didn’t think there was an illegal business there.

 

“I have been here quite a while and, I must say, there are many places I don’t know who resides in them,†he said. “But I do know that building is not linked to nefarious activity. So … well, it wasn’t. I mean, a beast crawling down it is nefarious to me. I can … be your translator and guide if you all will help me … figure out what is going on.â€

 

“But you will pay me?†Otto said.

 

“Well …†Mr. Li said.

 

“We can’t have that thing running around San Francisco killing everyone!†Professor Stalloid said. “We can only go so far, can’t we Dr. Weisswald!â€

 

“Oh, but it’s okay running around Chinatown?â€

 

“I mean … Chinatown is part of San Francisco.â€

 

“Yes, but you said San Francisco specifically.â€

 

“The larger area!â€

 

“Considering they didn’t hurt anyone─†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“Fine!†Professor Stalloid said. “California!â€

 

“I will accept that,†Mr. Li said. “Let’s send it to Texas.â€

 

“No!†Otto said. “I live there!â€

 

“Since they didn’t hurt any of the other side, we should see what they know about,†Dr. Weisswald said.

 

“I agree,†Mr. Li said.

 

“Or if there’s another tong that disagrees with the group it attacked, we could look into them as well,†Jacali said.

 

“I can lead you to either tong,†Mr. Li said. “Just tell me where you want to go.â€

 

“You ran in there bravely,†Jacali said. “I will help. I do not need payment.â€

 

“Look, I will help you and if we happen to find any bounties or anything that might be worth anything, I’ll take it as payment,†Otto said. “How about that?â€

 

“Well, I do believe you are the only bounty hunter here, am I correct?†Mr. Li said.

 

He looked at Wilder.

 

“One moment,†Professor Stalloid said. “One moment! Anything of value?â€

 

“Well, that isn’t illegal to take,†Otto said.

 

Professor Stalloid looked at the man.

 

“I’m not going to steal from anyone, if that’s what─†Otto said.

 

“How about we leave it at bounties?†Professor Stalloid said.

 

“Fine,†Otto said. “Bounties then.â€

 

“Two tongs seem to be fighting over a child that they claim the other one has taken,†Mr. Li said. “So neither one of them is in custody of the child and it seems that one tong was able to summon that creature that the other tong … but it was very confusing. It seems that neither one of them knows the truth. Or one of them is lying. But I do not know.â€

 

“I would suggest our first goal would be to find out which child it is,†Jacali said. “And try to investigate from there.â€

 

They decided to begin their investigation the next day.

 


* * *

 

 


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