Rising Tide: CATU Book 3 Ch. 11byJoeBarnosky©
The Lucky Dragon, Hong Kong
The restaurant is easily located and appears to be a very popular place to eat. As Spencer, Sam and Julie enter the building, they see that it was packed with patrons. They are quickly approached by a hostess.
"May I help you?" she asks in English.
"We are looking for a man named Lau Chang," Julie says.
"I don't know a Lau Chang. Can I offer you a place to sit?"
"We were told to meet Mr. Chang here," Julie explains. "Are you sure you've not heard of him?"
"Perhaps he hasn't come yet. You are welcome to have a seat and wait, maybe order some food while you wait," the hostess offers.
Julie casts a questioning look back to Sam and Spencer. Spencer answers with a shrug. "May as well," Sam answers.
"Very well," Julie says to the hostess.
The hostess begins leading the group toward the back of the restaurant when Julie asks for them to be placed by the window. Once they were seated, Julie orders Jasmine Tea while they wait. Even though they are all hungry, eating isn't an option.
"Let's hope dropping Lau's name gets us somewhere," Spencer comments once the hostess leaves.
"We'll know soon enough," Julie says looking around the restaurant. "This was the last place Sarai was supposed to have been."
"If she was taken from here, it doesn't look like a fight took place," Sam comments.
"Are you saying she went voluntarily?"
"No. All I'm saying is if she put up a fight, there should be some sign of damage here," Sam replies defensively.
"We are professionals, we don't draw attention to ourselves unlike some agencies," Julie spats venomously.
"Oh, so you think just because no one has heard of you guys for however many damn years that you all are perfect? Let me tell you something sister a—"
"Whoa! Ladies, please," Spencer says intervening. "We're on a mission, remember?"
Julie and Sam look at each other; an embarrassed look crosses both their faces.
"You're right Spence," Sam says apologizing.
"Yes, but we'll finish this conversation after the mission," Julie states, not willing to fully back down.
By then their waitress appears with a tea kettle and four cups. She smiles she places the items on the table. "Mr. Chang will see you shortly," the waitress says before she leaves.
"Well it looks like it may work in our favor after all," Spencer remarks.
"I'd like to believe that, but it looks like we have company," Julie says looking out the window.
Sam and Spencer turn their attention in the direction Julie is looking in. The street is beginning to line up with police cars.
"Coincidence?" Sam asks rhetorically.
To answer her question, five Hong Kong SWAT vans pull up. SWAT and police begin exiting their vehicles taking up defensive positions and drawing their weapons. At once they turn their guns in the direction of the building. The group knows it isn't pure coincidence.
"Maybe they are here for someone else," Spencer says looking around for an exit.
"You are surrounded. Come out, leave your weapons at the door and hold up your hands," the police chief says over the bull horn. "If you continue to hold your hostages, we will use force."
"I think that answers the question," Sam says.
Julie pulls her gun out from her jacket, catching Spencer's attention. The patrons of the restaurant begin murmuring amongst themselves not quite sure what to make of the current situation.
"What do you plan on doing?" he asks.
"Fighting our way out of here," she answers matter of factly.
"What happened to if we get caught the passports and papers will get us out of it?" Sam asks.
"Look at them! They think we're holding hostages. If they don't know already they will know soon that we aren't Chinese. If we're lucky they'll shoot us on site rather than charging us with espionage then killing us."
"How can we be so sure they're here for us?" Spencer asks hoping for an answer different than what he already knew.
Julie doesn't answer. In fact she is staring out the window. "Julie?" Spencer asks. "Julie? What is it?"
She points out the window in the direction of the police chief. He is currently arguing with another man dressed in a casual suit. The argument appears to be pretty heated and after a few minutes it ends with the casually dressed man walking toward the entrance of the Lucky Dragon. "That's Victor Lupescu. He's supposed to be dead."
"It's been my experience that those that are supposed to be dead usually turn back up," Spencer remarks sarcastically.
Julie snickers at the comment. "Regardless, he's half the reason of why we're here."
Victor walks through the door as if he owned the place. After the door closes behind him he looks around searching until his eyes fall upon Julie.
"Julie Branon," he says with his arms spread out toward her. "It's a good thing I got wind of this mess."
"Why the nine hells have you not checked in and let us know you were alive?" she asks angrily walking in his direction.
"Come now, we don't have time to make discussion about it right now," he answers grabbing her elbow and directing her to the back of the restaurant. "Your friends too."
"Now wait just a damn minute," she says stopping and yanking her elbow away from him. "I want answers. I don't give a fuck how much time we have."
"Not now Julie. I bought us five minutes, after that SWAT busting in here and anyone that's not Chinese is dead."
"C'mon Julie," Spencer enforces. "He can give us all the answers we want when we get out of here."
"Fine. But how do you plan to get us out of a surrounded building?"
"Easy," he says smiling. "This restaurant has an underground passageway leading to the building next door. I have a car waiting in the alley of the said building."
"Then what are we waiting for?" Sam asks.
"Yes, what are we waiting for?" Julie agrees.
The group makes their escape through the passageway leaving the police chief and his SWAT team entering the restaurant and empty handed. The car is waiting in the alley just as Victor promised. He also promised to answer the group's questions as soon as they reached his hideout he has been using for many months now.
"I know it looks expensive, but I assure you I didn't steal it," he says as they drive through a set of massive gates wrapping around a large estate.
"I wouldn't believe you did if you told us you did. Stealing this couldn't possibly go unnoticed," Sam comments.
"Well here we are," Victor announces ignoring the comment as they pull up to the front of the mansion.
Inside Victor asks that they leave their guns in the foyer, saying the owner dislikes weapons and it would be best to respect her wishes. The three agents are reluctant to relinquish their guns, but they needed help and answers. After setting the weapons aside Victor becomes silent as he leads the trio into a large room, sparsely furnished and containing a fireplace. Julie tired of the stalling made her impatience known. "Alright Victor, it's about time you give us the story."
"I would like to hear it as well," a voice says from a connecting room. Stepping through the doorway is Talilith. She wears an outfit mimicking a corset, but with a more armored look to it.
"You bastard!" Sam yells out.
"That he is," Talilith confirms.
"You betrayed us?" Julie asks unbelieving.
"He betrayed us both," the demon remarks. "I told you to keep them away and out of China. Instead you bring them here to me?"
"After Black List refused to send a team to find Sarai I took it upon myself to find her. I followed her trail all the way to Lau Chang and the Lucky Dragon. And do you know what I found? A fucking dead end. Nothing. There is no Lau Chang and there wasn't a sign of a fight or struggle at the restaurant. But I kept digging until I found Talilith. Through her I forged an alliance and through you I found my revenge."
"Revenge against us," Julie states.
"And his revenge against me," the demon adds.
Victor gives them a toothy grin. "I pretty good plan I think."
Talilith produces a gun and without warning aims it at Victor's head and pulls the trigger. His brains explode out the back of his head, scattering onto the wall behind him. "I expected something like this from him, I admit I underestimated his planning to go this far."
"You bitch!" Julie yells.
"Me? He's the one that betrayed you."
"But he was still an agent and that was cold blooded murder," she reasons.
"Wake up. This isn't some cozy little world where everything is happy and nice. You are in my world and right now it's you that's trespassing." Talilith raises her gun at Julie and the others. Each one tensed expecting to receive the same treatment as Victor. Instead, the demon tosses the gun to the side. "A quick death is far more too simple for you. It brings more pleasure to watch you suffer," she says as her lips curl into a smile.
In no time at all she transforms into her true form. Elegant wings unfold out from her back as a pair of pristine horns slowly curve out from her head.
"You two, get the guns!" Julie yells as see strikes out at Talilith. She throws a punch followed by a kick to the mid section. The demon brings a hand up then down blocking both attacks as easily as blocking a child's attacks.
"You'll have to do better than that," she says mockingly.
Julie lets her anger take control as she goes fully fledged against Talilith. Every punch and kick is dodged or blocked and many never come close as they are thrown wildly. The extent of the attacks begin to wear Julie down. The only fuel she has is being fed by her anger, but even that is beginning to take its toll on her.
"Is this the best you got?" Talilith mocks again.
"You wish," Julie replies.
Not willing to give up, she further presses the attack. Meanwhile, Sam and Spencer rush to the foyer looking in the cabinet for their weapons.
"Where the hell did they go?" Sam asks.
"I don't know," Spencer answers running his fingers along the inside crevices looking for a false door or mechanism.
"You don't think it would be that obvious?"
"No, but it doesn't hurt to try."
When he doesn't have any luck, he gives up and decides to tip the cabinet over. It strikes the ground, slamming hard and barely cracking the wood.
"Good, solid wood. At least she has a good taste in quality," he remarks making sure nothing important is behind it.
"She must have grabbed them before she made her appearance."
"Just what I was thinking" Spencer agrees.
A loud crash followed by whimpers resound from the grand room drawing both agents' attention. "She needs our help," Sam says hastily.
"I'd say so."
As the two rush into the great room, they first see Julie knocked out, lying near the entrance with the remains of a small accent table in pieces scattered underneath her.
"Who's next?" Talilith taunts.
Sam and Spencer look at each other and both smile, drawing out a stiletto each. What makes these weapons special is the blade is made of Mythril, a rare earthly metal found only in the deepest and highest reaches of the Earth. Mythril to a demon is like garlic to a vampire and equally as deadly.
Talilith doesn't show any sign of concern. She either doesn't care or she was good at hiding emotions, Spencer mused.
They charge in, Spencer going high, Sam low. Sam sweeps her leg out causing Talilith to jump up then twist away to avoid the stiletto from cutting her open across the abdomen. She performs a half twist/back flip to land on her feet a short distance away. Not losing momentum, Sam and Spencer pursue the demon. Attacking high and low, Sam and Spencer press Talilith, forcing her to backpedal. She redirects each attack by blocking at their wrists. Once she finds an opening in their attack she goes on the offensive.
The demon throws out a roundhouse kick forcing Sam to duck, the foot sailing over her head. Talilith uses the miss to her advantage by circling fully around into a leg sweep tripping Sam as she stands. Sam goes to her back.
As soon as Talilith stands, Spencer is there to bring the blade to bear at her throat. Talilith flips back knocking the blade from Spencer's hand as her foot catches it. Landing she throws a side kick into his chest. He stumbles back, grabbing and rubbing his chest. The stiletto falls into the demon's waiting hand.
By now Sam has recovered and is back on her feet. Talilith, however, is ready to meet her. Their blades clang and interlock as the two strike and block each attempt to cut the other. Spencer rushes back in hoping to try and distract her long enough for Sam to slip in and land a strike. As he does, the wall explodes outward, throwing all three away from the wall. Talilith takes the brunt of the blow. The remaining force is spread out catching Sam and Spencer.
Sam is the first to come around. "Spence?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Spencer says gruffly.
She forces herself up and rushes to Spencer's side to help him up. As he stands he grabs the gun Talilith has thrown to the side.
"What the hell just happened?" Sam asks.
"I don't know but we're finishing this before she wakes up."
Spencer limps over with the aid of Sam and point the gun at the demon's head. "Halt!" a command comes from outside the blown out wall.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Sam asks as Major Duncan Graves steps through the hole followed by three other heavily armed soldiers.
"You know him?" Spencer asks more to everyone now in the room than Sam.
"Know me? Of course," Graves says with a chuckle. "You're only here because I gave her the help she needed to rescue you. Now put the gun away, you're coming with us."
"Are you insane?" Spencer looks curiously at Graves ignoring the explanation. "Don't tell me you want to keep her alive."
"As a matter of fact, yes I do. And then you will be coming with us."
"Spencer, do as he says," Sam says.
He looks at Sam, his stare blank. "Just what the hell is going on? I'm out of the loop for a little while and everything changes."
"I have orders to bring you with us. I would rather not argue with you and leave you to the battalion of Chinese troops that are on their way here, but I simply don't have that luxury."
Spencer stands for a moment running it all through his head. He wants to see just how serious this guy is. He pulls back the hammer of the gun; the guns from the three soldiers instantly come up, aimed at him.
"I'll tell you again, put the gun away," he commands.
Spencer ejects the clip, then drops the gun and walks away. "Have it your way."
Graves is shocked that Spencer gives in so easily. He figures it is due to their lack of sleep and exhaustion from the last few days. Whatever it is he is glad for it.
Sam signals to Spencer and they both heads for Julie who still remains unconscious before Graves tells them to leave her.
"Leave her?" Sam asks. "I much I would like to we can't just leave her."
"I agree, if the Chinese are headed here, we can't leave her to be captured," Spencer says.
"It's not my problem for one and for two she's not part of my mission."
"Then we're not going," Sam protests.
"You're going or we're carrying you out. It's your choice."
"What are you going to do, shoot us?" Sam says sarcastically.
"As much as I would like to, I'm not allowed. That doesn't mean we can't use tranquilizers. Now let's move out before our window gets any smaller."
Sam and Spencer stand there defiantly, not budging. When Graves sees they are going to play it the hard way, he signals to the three soldiers. They pull out pistols and load them with a dart each.
"Last chance to leave on your own two feet," Grines warns.
"Sam, we're not going to win this one," Spencer says in a near whisper.
"I know Spence, I just hate to leave her," she replies. She takes her eyes off Spencer and looks at Graves. "Lead on."
The morale aboard the battleship, the USS Downley, is high as is the tension. The men and woman aboard are ready for a battle, but none hope for one. Admiral Pellington paces on the bridge. Normally he wouldn't perform such an exercise, being a seasoned officer, but this is a conflict not even he wants to face. "Systems check!" he announces again for the fifteenth time since the fleet arrived.
With the Chinese fleet sitting within firing range, it would not be good if an attack went off and something on his end went haywire. Across the way at the missile control terminal, the seaman finishes entering a command then gets up and walks away, disappearing from the bridge down the corridor.
The systems check is on task faster than it has been the first time Admiral Pellington called for one. That is until the progression comes to the missile control terminal.
"Where is Seaman Ross?" Pellington demands.
When an answer doesn't come, Pellington is ready to order a full ship-wide search. A bright flashing warning light halts his command and catches his and the crew's attention.
"Missile has been fired!" yells a crew member.
"All hands on deck! Communications get on the horn with the Chinese and command!" Pellington barks. "Prepare for battle!"