The next day, Danny Leong installed a small bulletin board in his small office. He wrote armed assassin and martial artist on a card and pinned it to the board. It was a small start, but he felt justified in his assumptions due to the reports he had read. But how he could expand on his knowledge was the real question.
Danny put the problem aside; he had work to do around his shop for the grand opening. His neighbors had kept to themselves, and he had not seen any, except when he walked to the corner store for some milk and eggs. None looked at him, as far as he could tell. They were probably waiting on him to approach them. He hoped so, anyway.
Taking one last look around the shop, Danny opened the door for customers for the first time. He noted the appearance of the local extortionists across the street as the locks clicked back. Others were gathering to them in a mob.
Danny went to wait behind his counter. He had a baton close at hand on a small shelf under the register. The hard wood would extend his reach another two feet when the fight started. He would have to be careful not to strike too hard. It was too easy to direct more force than necessary through the wood into a soft target.
He kept waiting as the White Tigers gang gathered their forces to teach him a lesson on why he should not refuse to pay. Maybe they would learn something in return.
Danny walked out from behind his counter as the man he had slapped entered the store. The group filed in behind him, the last man locking the bolt on the door.
“Now, about that insurance,” said the leader of this group of White Tigers, grinning for a moment, until he started wondering why the man in green simply looked at him like an annoyance.
He never saw Danny’s feet leave the floor, but felt a sledgehammer hit his chest. He flew backward, pinning his friends against the front windows, until a open hand hit the unmarked side of his face and sent him flying into a display stand.
The White Tigers tried to recover, rush their attacker, and overwhelm him. But Danny had them trapped against the door and was smashing them relentlessly with his open hand and baton. The last man struggled to unlock the front door as one of his comrades flew through a window into the street. He got out of the store, looking back at the chaos.
The store would be wrecked, but the White Tiger knew most of his comrades were going to the hospital as that green-eyed thing broke bones with simple grabs, blocked and counterattacked before the blow swung halfway, and slapped a man silly with invisible hands. The fight spilled out on the street, the Tigers that could move limping away from the destruction.
Danny looked around, kicking a White Tiger in the head. The gang had broken from the fight, leaving their wounded behind. The fighter shoved the bodies out of his wrecked shop with not-so-gentle kicks.
He surveyed the damage calmly as he replaced the baton under the counter. He would have to order new pottery and supplies to sell. Most of his merchandise had blood on it, making it unsuitable for resale.
Danny dialed 9-1-1 and reported a fight outside his shop, telling the operator to send medical attention before he hung up the phone. The police would clean up the sidewalk for him as he worked to reopen his business. He went and started a kettle of water to boil. He needed some tea to think.
Later, Danny watched as the police arrived to help clear the streets. Some of the White Tigers had made it off the streets minutes ahead of the men in blue. He sipped his tea quietly as he thought about his next move.
The records he had uncovered a marked man with a proficiency with his hands and a knife the size of a dagger. There were a number of men like that, especially here in this city. He needed a way to narrow the field.
Meat wagons were full when they rolled away from the scene. Danny filed a report, stating his wrecked shop came from the supposed fight between the White Tigers and their imaginary enemies. No one came forward to contradict him.
Billie Gunn and her partner, Benny “Tubby” Watts, arrived after things were settled and Danny had gone back to cleaning up the wreckage of his shop in his methodical way. “Clearance sale?” she said, hands in her pockets.
“Unfortunately not,” said Danny. “I’ll have to send a bill to the White Tigers for the loss.”
“Benny, this is Dan Leong,” Billie said. “Danny, this is Officer Benny Watts, but I call him Tubby. You want to tell me how many bones you broke over some tea?”
Danny led the partners to the back. At least his kitchen had survived the assault by the gang members. He placed the kettle on to boil water for tea once more. “I thought you worked south of here,” he said as he retrieved two more cups from his cupboard.
“We heard the squawk and decided to come down and look for ourselves,” said Billie. “Looks like a riot happened.”
“I’ve never seen so many sore heads,” said Watts. “What are you going to do about the front of the store? It’s a wreck.”
“It won’t take too much to clean up,” said Danny. “A few hours of cleanup at most. Hopefully a lesson has been taught, so I will not be bothered again.”
“I don’t know about that, Danny,” said the female cop, looking around casually as she sat at the kitchen table. “A guy I know at the OCB said they front for a tong. A heavy hitter might show up to talk to you.”
“I would be flattered if one did,” said Danny, looking out his rear window. “Then we could talk about the current situation in this part of town.”
“I would pay to see that,” said Billie.
“I’m sure,” said Danny, picking the kettle up just before it whistled. He poured the water out in the cups, dropping tea bags in to steep.
“Do you want police protection?” asked Watts. “Maybe we can build a case against these yahoos and take them off the streets.”
“I don’t need any protection,” said Danny. “I’m sure that the incident that just happened could lead to other crimes, if you could get a warrant to look through their belongings.”
“OCB is probably doing that now,” said Billie. “The fingerprint you gave me is being run against unsolved crimes as we speak. That might be some kind of leverage against Mickey Chen.”
“Habitual offender?” asked Danny.
“Record as long as my arm,” said Watts, reaching for sugar to put in his cup of tea.
Danny silently sipped at his tea as he considered how he could apply what he had been told. This Mickey Chen character might trigger someone higher in the food chain to come to the shop. Maybe it was an entrance into the tong behind the White Tigers. Secret societies frowned on outsiders telling them how they should conduct their business.
He looked over at Billie and her partner, Watts. Billie was another matter to consider. She had that disagreeable look that said she was taking notice and stubbornly taking hold of any thread she could to grab anyone she could place in jail. A filly not to trifle with is what his Uncle Greg would say.
The worst part was she would keeping digging until someone came after her instead of Danny. He had no doubts on her ability with a handgun, but her skill was limited against someone who had the proper training. He was stumped for the means to exclude her from his search.
“What can you tell me about this tong?” Danny finally asked, breaking the silence.
“The Golden Claw tong is supposedly the backers for the White Tigers,” said Billie Gunn. “They have the usual illegal trade with the triads back home — drugs, weapons, counterfeit money, and white slavery. They have had some conflicts with Benny Ko in the past. Benny runs his own operations under the guise of a legitimate import/export outfit. Benny and Li Jiane, the guy who runs the Claws, have been at each other for a number of years. So far they haven’t declared war on each other.”
“Where does Li Jiane live?” asked Danny. “I may want to talk to him.”
“No one knows where he lives,” said Watts. “Rumor is the Dragon Kanji restaurant is where he conducts his business. It’s supposed to be an open fort.”
“Dragon Kanji?” said Danny. “I have seen it.”
“Benny Ko works out of the Eastern Shipping Company, if you want to talk to him,” said Billie.
“I may want to talk to both of them,” Danny said. “But now I have to call the glass company and replace my windows.”
“Anything you learn, pass along,” said Billie. “The organized crime guys have been after these guys for years.”
“Not able to establish probable cause?” asked Danny.
“Right. And the minor leaguers we take down are too scared to turn,” said Billie.
“I imagine,” said Danny.
“We have to get back to work,” said Watts. “We’re already way out of our beat.”
“I understand,” said Danny. “I have to get back to work myself.”
The police officers finished their tea and left quietly, while Danny started making arrangements for his ruined shop. Everything would be back in shape the next day. Then he could reopen on time the day afterward.
Danny started cleaning until the crews arrived to finish the job up by replacing the windows with panes off their truck. The job might be done faster than Danny had thought at first. He pitched in, and soon it was done before the sun descended on the city.
After paying the workers for their time, Danny went to dinner. He walked down the street, listening to the conversations going on around him and scooping out some useful nuggets as he went.
One was the fear that the other gangs that roamed the neighborhood would try to muscle in where the White Tigers were having a problem with the new merchant. A second was that some recalled Victor Leong and his stiff-necked resistance to the White Tigers back in 1972, and his murder shortly thereafter. They wondered when a hatchet man would try to kill him like the older Leong. Danny nodded to himself in silent agreement. He wondered when a professional would try to make a move. Then he might have a tie to the killer he wanted to find.
Danny stepped into the Dragon Kanji restaurant, surveying the scene. Guards were clustered around a stairwell leading off the main floor of the dining room, obviously to delay the arrival of invaders to the head man’s office. He waited to be seated, watching the diners eat, listening to the hundred discussions, filtering through what seemed innocent, and taking in information that seemed incriminating.
After a long wait, the hostess seated Danny at a table, and he picked the seat that would give him the best view of the dining room as he waited for the waitress. He liked the room itself; it was open, with tall ceilings. Lighting was provided by small lamps on the decorated walls. A dragon and kanji were merged in one image.
The waitress tried to be friendly with Danny as she took his order, but his regular, placid face was a cool mask of indifference. She went away huffily to turn his order in. Danny didn’t care about the food or the waitress. His concentration was on the words leaking to him from the office upstairs. Li Jiane was calmly berating someone for letting one man embarrass him. There was the sound of cracking. Danny thought that someone had a bone broken.
His food arrived moments later. He nodded to the waitress as he looked his dinner over. He sniffed the soup and gingerly tasted the duck and noodles. He waited for the woman to clear out before he picked at his dish.
Several more bones snapped upstairs as he ate, reasonably sure the food had not been poisoned. He idly wondered if it would be better if he went upstairs and talked the crime boss into letting his subordinate live.
Danny decided that the White Tiger would have to fend for himself until someone noticed him enough to tell Li Jiane he was enjoying the servings he had received. On the other hand, Danny would rather finish his dinner before dealing with a potential menace in the neighborhood. He had no doubt violence would break out with the least provocation. He would like to avoid that, with so many people around to get hurt.
He picked through his food as he continued to listen. Li Jiane told his guards to clear the debris out of the room and dump it, then he called someone on his phone. The side that Danny heard suggested he was hiring someone dependable to clear the deck of his annoyances. The phone hung up with a vehement slam.
Danny leisurely finished his meal before going to the register and paying for it. He had heard the name Ghost Tiger in Chinese on the phone. That was a clue, if Li Jiane had used the same man years ago in taking the Dummy’s contract.
Pausing by the door, he studied the bodyguards on the stairs. They regarded him with disdain until he walked up to them.
“I would like to speak to Li Jiane, please,” Danny said.
“No visitors, chump,” said the bigger man. “Get out of here.”
Danny nodded. “Tell him I expect a check for the damages his employees did to my shop by tomorrow,” he said. “Or he won’t like what I do to his place of business.”
“What did you just say, runt?” asked the guard, reaching under his jacket. The other man also went for the firearm he was carrying in a holster on his waistband.
Neither saw the backs of Danny’s hands landing against their faces before they flew on either side of the stairwell. Danny grabbed their pistols as he went upstairs, crushing them with a little effort and a small expenditure of the chi at his command. The lumps of metal dropped heavily against the floor as he reached the second-floor landing.
The two guards there already had their weapons out as Danny suddenly appeared in front of them. He slid forward, disabling them with two simple hand moves before they could pull the triggers on their guns. He crushed those pistols, too, before knocking on the door to the inner office.
“I said no visitors,” the surly voice grumbled through the hardwood door.
Danny knocked on the door once. The hinges snapped, letting the door cascade inside to the floor.
“My name is Danny Leong,” he said, a calm in his voice belying the situation. “I would like to talk to you about the money you owe me for damages.”
Li Jiane was a compact man wearing black cotton jacket and trousers. Gray black hair was trimmed close to his skull. Hazel eyes glared at the intruder in his office from deep sockets. “Excuse me?” Li said as he put aside a ledger and stood up, somewhat in shock but composing himself well nevertheless.
“I understand that you are the brain of the White Tigers,” said Danny. “I wish for reimbursement from the damage they inflicted on my shop this morning. I will be glad to submit an itemized bill.”
“I understand you are new to the neighborhood,” said Li. “That is no excuse to be rude. In any case, I am not responsible for anything a gang may do.”
“I see,” said Danny, advancing toward the desk. “So you don’t feel that you should hold your assistants in check?”
“Youth will express itself in a way it feels is warranted,” Li said, dismissively slicing the air with the edge of his hand. “I am not accountable for that.”
Danny kicked the desk, channeling a fragment of his chi into the heavy wood. The piece of furniture hopped on its own accord and crashed through the office wall. It descended across the restaurant’s ground floor before impaling itself on a column next to the entrance.
“That is my expression of what is warranted,” said Danny.
“Who do you think you are?” Li asked, falling into a fighting stance. “Do you know how much that will cost to repair?”
“About the same as my shop,” said Danny calmly, arms at his side. “It will be worse if I have to come back here.”
“What makes you think you are leaving?” Li demanded.
The tong leader stabbed at Danny with his hand, fingers extended like a knife blade. The younger man stepped back out of the way, and the fingertips fell short by an inch. The pressure from the blow dimpled his shirt slightly.
Li stepped forward, arms stabbing forward one after the other like pistons. Danny slid back before the storm of blows, hands still at his sides. His expression was the surface of a calm lake or clear sky.
Pausing in his assault, Li’s breathing was slow and steady as he considered his next tactic. He went for Danny’s legs with a sweep to knock the younger man down to the floor, but his foot swept through empty air as the shop owner hopped over the maneuver. He swept his leg back in a roundhouse kick to Danny’s head. The move was quick as a snake, but the Dragonmage seemed to push himself over the move with a flick of his hand, somersaulting easily over the crime boss. Li turned, sliding across the floor on one foot, while attacking with the other. His phantom opponent disappeared through the new hole in his office wall.