Lotus Queen, or Sex and Kungfu Ch. 03byJMaxwell69©
It was a breezy autumn evening as two trench coat wearing NYPD detectives walked down a side street in Chinatown. The sidewalk glowed red with the cumulative reflection of stoplights, tail-lights, and marketing signs. The threat that the sheen on the pavement might be refreshed by yet more rains remained. Most, but not all, of the businesses complied with the requirement to have signage in English, but it still took great efforts to find the right place. The little section of red awning over the door said "Pei Ying Stationary and Gifts" in English letters below larger Chinese characters that Detective Rathko assumed said the same thing. The awning sign was old and faded, but while large flecks of the lettering had chipped off over the years there was enough of the jigsaw puzzle left to read the sign clearly.
"Is this the place, Chow." Detective Rathko, the more senior detective, asked his younger partner in a thick New York accent. Rathko shone the beam of a flashlight on the sign because, while it was not yet 7:00pm, it was already dark, and the nearest streetlight was out.
"The number is right, but it's not supposed to be a tchotchkes store. We'll see." Detective Chow replied without any discernable accent as she pressed the button on the intercom.
"Ke yi bang ni ma?" A voice, which sounded like an elderly woman, came over the intercom in sing-song Mandarin Chinese asking if she could be of assistance.
"Ni hao. It's Detectives Rathko and Chow of 5th Precinct. We made an appointment to speak with Sifu Chen." Detective Mandy Chow said.
The buzzer immediately sounded, and Chow pulled open the wrought-iron burglar-bars and found the inner door unlocked. The door, as expected from the narrow frontage, opened into a steep staircase that lead up to an interior door at the back of the building on the second story.
By the time the two cops had gotten to the top of the stairs a woman, presumably the one who answered the intercom, had opened the door, and she stood aside quietly while the two entered. After closing the door behind them, as soon as the detectives shed their shoes, she directed them to follow her. The inside was quite different from the run-of-the-mill brown brick storefront exterior. It was a pristinely maintained unit painted a deep red and trimmed with gold. There were plants here and there, along with calligraphy and paintings of Ming Era scenes. They walked along the back wall of what seemed to be a small martial arts training hall. There were four students following the motions of an instructor doing a Tai Chi Chuan form. The class moved slowly and smoothly together almost as a single unit.
The old lady bowed slightly as she silently extended a hand toward a door ushering the two detectives into a room. Sitting on a cushion, which in turn was upon a mat, was an old man with a white beard wearing white loose-fitting robe-like garb.
"Ahh. Detectives, please come in and have a seat." The old man said directing Rathko and Chow to sit on cushions themselves.
Chow took a seat smoothly, but the process was awkward for the muscular but inflexible Rathko.
"Detective Rathko, would you like a chair? Americans are not used to sitting this way." Master Chen asked.
"No thanks. I'll be OK." Rathko said, following the "when in Rome" rule his first partner had taught him.
"Then, what can I do for you?" The master said in accented English.
"Word on the street is that you might be able to identify a piece of evidence." Rathko opened an expandable file and extracted a plastic baggy with a dagger in it. The dagger had a manila colored tag tied to it.
Rathko handed the baggy to the old man. The master looked at it conscientiously through the clear bag. He turned it over, and looked at it multiple ways.
"So, Master Chen, have you seen it before?" Rathko asked.
"Not this one, but I have seen ones like it. I think I can provide you some useful information." Chen said.
"So tell us about it." Chow said as she flipped open a notebook and clicked her pen.
"It was made by a man named Xinlu from Shaanxi Provence in China. Xinlu died during the Cultural Revolution over forty years ago." Chen said.
"You're sure." Rathko said.
"Yes, this was handmade. It has his marks, and is very much in his style. There was a time when things were made by hand and they bore the mark of their maker." Chen said.
"We're not meaning to challenge your conclusion, but it is unfortunate for us." Rathko said.
"Why is that?" Chen asked.
"Because if this is over 40 years old..." Rathko began
Chen interrupted. "More like 55."
"What?" Chow said.
"Xinlu had bad arthritis for the last 15 years of his life, and stopped making weapons. He thought his affliction was from not living in accordance with the Way, and he resigned himself to give up making instruments of death." Chen elaborated.
"Even more so. If this is over 55 years old, it didn't come from its original owner. That person is likely long gone." Rathko explained.
"Tea?" The lady had returned stealthily and held out a lacquered wood tray between the detectives that held three steaming cups of tea.
"Thank you." The two detectives said simultaneously as Chen said the same in Chinese.
"Not necessarily. Consider the inscription." Chen said returning smoothly to the conversation at hand.
"What does it say?" Chow asked.
"You can't read it?" Chen said.
"No." Chow said.
"Really?... I would not have taken you for an illiterate." Chen said, not missing a chance to impart a lesson in humility in his usual style.
"Only in Chinese. I read English quite well." Chow said defensively.
Chen flashed a Cheshire grin. He enjoyed giving people opportunities to know themselves better and to overcome instincts toward pettiness.
"Roughly, it says, 'Ling, best of luck in your search for immortality.'" Chen read.
"That's even more evidence that the owner would be long past. If they were old enough, 55 years ago, to be searching for immortality, they would definitely be six feet under today. It could have been an heirloom that ended up being pawned off to some random person." Rathko said.
"Unless she succeeded..." Chen said. This time he was not smiling.
"You don't really believe that someone can live forever, do you?" Rathko asked.
"A given body can't stay alive forever, but it can for much longer than you would expect, detective." Chen said, sipping his tea.
"Oh. One more thing. Have you ever seen this girl?" Rathko said, handing a police sketch over to Chen.
"No, but she is a looker, isn't she." Chen said looking at the drawing. It was a girl of about 19 or 20 with straight jet black silky hair and flawless skin. She had delicate features but a sharp look about her. She was a beauty, to be certain.
"Well, thank you for your time. You've been quite helpful." Said Rathko
"So that's it?" Master Chen asked.
"Yes. Unless you know of something else that might be helpful in tracking down the owner of that dagger?" Rathko said, and, after a brief pause, he began to turn.
"This is about the missing college students?" Chen asked.
"What makes you say that?" Chow said.
"Will you indulge an old man who likes to tell stories? You may find this one offers something of value." Chen said, stroking his white beard.
Rathko looked at his watch, obviously not thrilled by the prospect of listening to what was described as a "story", but he had been trained to never stop a witness or suspect from talking as long as they were rational. You never knew what someone was going to say, and the more a person talked the more that person let his or her guard down.
"Sure, let's hear it." Rathko said, sitting back down. Det. Chow followed suit.
"When I was a young boy growing up in the Hubei Province of China, I had a job cleaning up a stockroom. I would sometimes eavesdrop on conversations between the merchant and some of the customers. One time I overheard a rumor, which was not meant for a child of my age, concerning a Taoist cult. Actually, it was far from the mainstream of Taoist thought, but, rather, its practitioners perverted some concepts of Taoism for their own use. They were a led by a woman who was called 'Mistress Ling' or, sometimes, the 'Lotus Queen' by her followers. This Mistress Ling was followed by a group of young women who were said to be the most beautiful in the province, if not all of China, and they were called the Lotus Blossom Army.
"Ling believed that humanity was not in balance and thus was out of harmony with the Way. She believed that the Yang, that which is light and masculine, dominated in the human world, and that it was incumbent upon her to gather a group of women warriors to explore the ignored realm of Yin. Ling and the Lotus Blossom Army practiced strict discipline and sought to develop the life-force we call chi to the utmost. In addition to the usual approaches such as chi gong, tai chi chuan, nutrition, and traditional medicine, Ling's court followed some quite odd and arcane practices."
"What kind of practices?" Rathko said in response to a brief pause by Master Chen.
"I feel I must apologize for discussing such matters in mixed company, but I know in this day and age and in this country, it is unreasonable to be shy in discussing such matters with a female professional such as Detective Chow. But I am an old man and set in my ways.
"You may be aware that in traditional Taoism, male ejaculate is considered to be among the richest sources of the life energy. Men are encouraged to either abstain from ejaculation or to maintain a sparse schedule of sexual climax so as to avoid weakening their life forces. Mistress Ling, taking this idea to perhaps an absurd and extreme conclusion, came to believe that if semen was consumed in a certain form that that life energy could be transferred from the producer to the consumer. As the story goes, she had her small army of young women seek out strong virile young men and kidnap them. They held these men for periods as long as months. Every day these beautiful girls would bring the men to the edge of climax many times. The men were restrained captives and thus could not 'relieve themselves', and the Lotus girls would prevent them from achieving climax. Then, at a designated day and hour, the ejaculate was 'harvested' and Mistress Ling consumed the largest portion with the rest being split among the Lotus Blossom girls." Chen finished the story.
"And how did they go about 'consuming' the ejaculate?" Rathko asked.
" Unfortunately, this tale has been told with two very different endings, and the endings have exceedingly different ramifications for the well-being of the young men. In the first variation, the ejaculate is... excuse my vulgarity... drunken straight from the man, so to speak. In the second and far more sinister version, the men are castrated and a soup is made from their testicles - as soups are made with animal testes in my country. The semen cannot be gathered up for later consumption anymore than you can consume a soup once it is poured into the dirt. In other words, the chi dissipates into the world instantaneously when it hits the atmosphere and is no longer in the extremely concentrated form that is sought." Master Chen explained.
"So you think this 'Mistress Ling' is the same 'Ling' mentioned on the inscription, and that she became immortal by drinking cum?" Rathko asked without hiding his skepticism.
"Probably not. I heard this tale as a boy. That was almost 80 years ago. In the tale, the Mistress Ling was described as being svelte and lovely, but there was one sign of her true age and that was her silver-white hair. I am living testament to the fact that those living in accordance with the Way can live long lives, but this woman would be at least 130 today. Even in the fresh air of the mountains, Taoist Masters rarely live beyond 120, let alone in the far less healthy city environment. I am just an old man telling a story that your case reminded me of. Of course, I am probably not the only one who has heard the story, and, thus, there could be a Mistress Ling imitator - the cult could continue with new members." Chen said.
Rathko and Chow looked at each other. The man was wise to be sure. They were both astounded that he had been a boy 80 years ago. That meant that he was nearing 90 today. Rathko would have taken the Master for about 60 years old. The detectives thought maybe the Master was exaggerating his age, but, still, the idea of modern day copy-cat made sense.
"Tell me, could Halloween have any significance for this cult?" Chow asked.
"No, of course not. Halloween is an entirely Western invention coming from Western religious traditions... Why, may I inquire, do you ask?" Chen responded.
Det. Chow paused. She was not certain that she should give the civilian any more information than he already had. Giving out too much information was a risky proposition that sometimes bit police officers in the ass.
Rathko had a good intuition about the usefulness of the old man, and, as the senior detective, assumed the risk, breaking the silence. "Luck is a funny thing. Sometimes you can't ever seem to catch a break, but occasionally it rains fricking gold doubloons. We had a couple lucky breaks. For one, we got that dagger out of the bullet-proof vest of an officer who stumbled upon a young Chinese girl in the progress of kidnapping a male college kid. ... The officer's injuries were superficial." Rathko said, adding the latter when he saw the Master's somber reaction.
"Anyway, our second lucky break was that the college boy, who had been bound and gagged, overheard the girl's end of a brief phone conversation as she was simultaneously talking on the phone and chloroforming the bound young man. The last thing he heard before he passed out was the girl saying, 'I know it's almost Halloween...' in Chinese. It turns out the guy was a graduate student in the Department of East Asian Languages at Columbia, and was fluent in Chinese. So are you certain that this cult couldn't have developed an affinity for Halloween. Perhaps it is a modern mish-mash, like Tai Chi - Yoga." Rathko said.
Chen winced the mention of "Tai Chi - Yoga", a bastardization the Master clearly found painful to comprehend.
"It is possible, I suppose. But another significance of Halloween occurs to me..." Chen said.
"... and what is that?" Chow asked.
"If one wanted to move around the city in masks to disguise one's face, and, possibly with blood on one's clothes, what is the one night a year one could do that without your NYPD compatriots promptly arresting one? I would suggest that if they want to move those men from where they are holding them, alive or... well... they will need to do so Halloween night. That means they will likely do what they have planned early that evening at the latest. I would guess during the 5:00 to 7:00pm timeframe; that is one of the times when the chi tends to be most active." Chen said.
Chow and Rathko again exchanged glances. This time the exchange was one of dread. They had less than a week to break this case.
Seeing these expressions, Chen spoke up, "You are not looking on the bright side."
"Which is?" Chow said.
"Detective Chow, you should know as well as anybody. Looking for a secret army of pretty girls is easy. Pretty girls can't do anything that escapes attention. Now, if you had to find a secret army of ugly girls, that would be a challenge." Chen said, referring to the fact that Mandy Chow was quite a fetching woman herself, though presumably slightly older than the Lotus Blossom girls.
Det. Chow's expression brightened at the compliment and Det. Rathko's at the thought imparted by the old Master.
*** "So I'm told you work in the 26th Precinct?" Mei said in a seductive voice to the black mustachioed man with an out-of-style mid-sized afro, after sliding into the barstool beside him.
"Is that right? Now who would be telling you a thing like that?" Lamont Gribbs replied in a cautiously intrigued tone of voice. He sat on a stool, leaning over the bar, and nursing a tumbler of bottom-shelf rum.
"My friend, Vinny Carletti." Mei said, dropping the name of a man who was not really a friend, but was an information trafficker occasionally employed by the Lotus Blossom Army. Mei was wearing a tight-fitting strapless black cock-tail dress that had a bustier-like top.
"Don't know him." Gribbs said in a tone that did not ring true.
"He knows you." Mei said, leaning forward to put her hands on Gribbs' thigh.
"Lot of people know me. I'm a damn popular son-of-a-bitch." Gribbs said.
"Look... I don't care who you know or don't know. I'm just interested in WHAT you know." Mei said in a whisper into Gribbs' ear.
"I know a lot of things." Gribbs said, keeping his eyes facing across the bar as if fixated by the rows of bottles.
"The night before last, two patrolmen interrupted a kidnapping in progress. I just need to know who is working the case, and whether you can get your hands on a piece of evidence confiscated by the officers." Mei whispered in the man's ear as she ran her hand down the top of his thigh and then up the inside of the thigh until she unexpectedly bumped into the member that was stiffening down his pant leg.
"Ah-ha. You the crazy Chinese bitch they said was absconding with that boy?" Gribbs said.
"Nooo. I'm just a curious kitty." Mei said sexily.
"Look, miss, I'm just a damn janitor." Gribbs said.
"Yes. I know. We both know that janitors go everywhere, and nobody pays much attention to them. What's more, we both know they are an under-appreciated group. I'm offering to show you a little appreciation, and I do know what you like... Daddy." Mei said, for the last word she shifted from a seductive tone to that of a ditzy teenage girl.
Mei had done her homework. She spoke with the prostitute that Carletti had told her Gribbs occasionally visited. In one of those odd cases of reality being disjoint with expectations, the seeming man's man was into some odd kinks. This was great news for Mei. If he had been the "meat-and-potatoes" man he appeared to be, she would not have nearly as much potential leverage, but this particular bit of freakishness made the janitor particularly vulnerable. Mei didn't know whether Gribbs had ever done anything illegal, but his penchant for role-playing with age / incest provided a great deal of blackmail potential -given the fact that Mei's petite unblemished body, while that of a full grown woman, would pass on camera for pubescent.
"I know I can't get you any evidence related to that case, but I can find out who's investigating and I do know something that might be of interest. What kind of appreciation are we talking?" Gribbs said.
"The kind you will find very... very... pleasurable." Mei said progressively leaning in closer and punctuating her comment by lightly biting on Gribbs' earlobe.
"Where you want to do this?" Gribbs asked.
"I have a room, 421, just down the street in the Heritage. Come over in about 15 minutes. I'll be waiting." Mei said, covertly sliding a key card under his hand as she moved to put her hand on his.
Mei didn't go straight back to the room for fear of being ambushed. Instead, she took up a position in a supply closet down the hall with the door slightly ajar. This way she could make sure that Gribbs didn't bring any friends, cop or otherwise, with him.
Gribbs ordered a refill on his rum, figuring it would take about the requisite 15 minutes to drink it down. There was a bit of an alarm sounding in Gribbs' brain, but he'd had too much to drink and was just too damn horny to be responsive to it. If he hadn't been drinking, he probably would have erred on the side of discretion. But, instead, he cleared his tab, and weaved his way out the increasingly crowded bar.