Li Jiane watched his opponent walk to the front door of his restaurant and leave. He breathed his anger away as he went to the door of his office. He would have to clear the dining room and notify his brothers of this upstart. He was ready to go to war, if that was what this newcomer wanted.
He shook his head at his sleeping guards, not surprised that they had been laid out by the intruder. It had been a long time since he had met someone with the skill displayed by the shop owner.
Li raised his hands at the entrance to the dining room, trying to smile reassuringly to his patrons. “I am sorry,” he began, casting about for a suitable explanation. “A water leak has caused the floor in my office to collapse. If you will go to the register, I will issue rain checks for your dinners. I am sorry for the inconvenience.”
He waited for the diners to file out, whispering for one of the waitresses to lock up behind the customers as they left. He knew that no one would press on the lie. That would be tantamount to asking for a visit to their homes and businesses by the White Tigers or representatives from the tong.
Li waited for the last of his customers to leave before returning to his office. He had arrangements to make. Luckily, the phone had crashed to the floor instead of following the desk through the wall.
Danny Leong walked back to his shop, wondering what steps Li Jiane would take, now that he had been affronted by one of his supposed victims. Would he ask for a sanction from a hatchet man?
He decided to check out the place that the other godfather worked from. He would use his other face for that.
Danny entered his shop, going to his living quarters. He changed into the green-on-green costume and face paint he wore as the Dragonmage. He pulled on his weapon belts as he headed for the roof, then crossed the neighborhood’s roofs with his usual mechanical grace.
Dragonmage paused across the street from the import/export office. A warehouse extended from the back of the place. A chain-link fence surrounded the loading area of the site. The company’s sign had been screwed into the brick front of the office, the letters in Chinese hanzi and English letters.
The Law’s Legionnaire used the front of his building across from the Eastern Shipping Company as a slide to the ground. He paused in a pool of shadows before sprinting across the street, bouncing over the fence by kicking the wall of the office. He dropped to the asphalt on the other side, shoulder rolling under a security camera.
Dragonmage moved to a small door beside the large sliding truck doors. That would allow him entrance with the proper coaxing. Grabbing the doorknob, he yanked it forward, then pushed it back just as fast. His effort unseated the bolt for a second, breaking the mechanism. He pushed the steel barrier in, hoping that the damage would go unnoticed by any casual inspection. He stepped inside the warehouse, closing the door behind him.
The interior of the warehouse was packed with boxes from all over the world. Overhead lights were off. The crescent moon glimmered dimly through skylights.
Dragonmage saw the connecting door to the office and headed for it, avoiding the cameras he saw mounted to the walls. He stood next to the office door, a shadow among other shadows. He knew that he and the man in the office were the only ones in the building; his exceptional hearing told him that much.
The man in the office was checking on someone and where they were right now. He seemed irate that the subject was moving across the city, seemingly without purpose. The phone slammed against its cradle with one last order of “Find her!” in the air.
Dragonmage waited as the man worked for a few more hours. When the office light snapped off, the Law’s Legionnaire had already slid behind a stack of crates. An elderly Chinese man sailed out of the office, white hair like little clouds above his ears. He went directly to the front door and left after turning on the alarm system. Dragonmage quickly went to the alarm panel and cut the system back off, using the numbers the old man had punched in.
Moving to the office, he searched it quietly for any clues. A set of records revealed that Mr. Ko’s company earned twice as much as it reasonably should. It didn’t take an accountant to see that. The question then became what was making the extra dollars for the Eastern Shipping Company.
Dragonmage left the office, deciding to take a look at some of the properties on sight. Quick slices from one of his short swords popped the top on any crate he wanted to look at. Empty spaces next to knick-knacks and souvenirs showed that other things had been shipped through Customs successfully.
The Law’s Legionnaire shook his head as he placed the lid back on the boxes. He made a note of the crates’ shipping numbers. He would give that to Billie Gunn; that would put her on the Customs inspector that hadn’t properly checked the contents of the crate. She might be able to flip the man against Ko. That would give the smuggler something to think about other than his business.
Since getting out was just as easy as getting in for him, he retraced his route to get to the exit and headed back to his shop. Pushing Li Jiane like he had might have angered the man enough to burn the place down.
Dragonmage used the rooftops to get to his place. A stopped a few times to let some hoodlums know that he was watching them, to stop them in the middle of whatever crime he came across. The emergency rooms nearby were kept busy that night by his idea of preventive action.
Stepping back inside his shop, the Law’s Legionnaire left a message on Billie’s answering machine before cleaning up and finally going to sleep on the mat he used for a bed upstairs. His instinct would sound an alarm if his place was invaded while he was asleep. Still, he kept one of his swords at hand so he wouldn’t fumble for it if he needed it.
Danny wondered what the sun would bring in the morning as he relaxed into the light trance he called sleep.
Danny Leong watched the sun rise from his roof. He had decided to keep the shop closed for the day. He didn’t want to look fearful in front of the people in the neighborhood, who would be watching things like a hawk, but it couldn’t be helped.
As Dragonmage, he leaped across the rooftops moving out of Chinatown. New York was a city of connecting roofs, which were a road for someone like Danny. Only the skyscrapers that dotted Manhattan would make him vary his routine efforts enough to appear cautious.
He landed on the roof across the street from Billie Gunn’s small apartment. He waited, still as a park statue. The policewoman walked out of her place and turned toward the police statue. She scanned the street, looking for something as she walked. Perhaps it was that she felt his presence but couldn’t see him. He had seen others do that when they were being followed. Someone concentrating on them seemed to warn them.
Dragonmage drifted along behind his fellow Law’s Legionnaire, pleased that no one seemed to be following her. He didn’t doubt that Ko or Li Jiane would take her hostage if they thought that would do any good, maybe even kill her if they thought it was warning enough. But a bunch of bad guys would go down in the attempt.
Billie Gunn’s reflexes were lightning fast, and she was as deadly with a Colt as any Old West gunfighter. Her shooting skills at the Vigilante’s annual Heroes Shootout last year had placed her in third place behind Floyd Lawton and Cully Morrigan. (*) She could bull’s-eye a moving target almost as fast as she could pull the target. Still, numbers would take the day, no matter how good Billie was.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Law’s Legionnaires: Soldiers of Victory, Chapter 1: Heroes Shootout.]
The policewoman made it to her precinct, going inside to start her day. Her shadow waited outside for her reappearance. Billie reappeared an hour later, Benny Watts in tow. The stout man nicknamed Tubby had a cup of coffee and a doughnut in his hand as they started walking. Moments later they were in a blue and white heading across town. Dragonmage followed, the early morning traffic helping him keep the police car in sight.
Billie and Watts met a team at the import company, then gently walked in with a pack of drug dogs leading the way. Minutes later, men were being lined up against the outer wall. It looked like Benny Ko hadn’t had a chance to empty all of the crates and move the contraband as quickly as he should have. That was a costly mistake for the smuggler, depending on how much he had been caught with.
One of the men swung on Billie, trying to get out of the trap and run for it. A knee between the legs stopped that move. She swung the butt of her pistol against his head to make sure he stayed down. Two more went for it while the cops were distracted. One stopped on his own after Billie shot the other in his leg.
Danny nodded to himself. The police had things well in hand. He would be able to open his shop, after all. He wondered if Li Jiane could open his restaurant later in the day. Maybe he should drop by and get some chow mein or fried duck.
Dragonmage crossed town lightly, thinking about his next move. Ko might make bail. There was no telling what he would do when he did. Maybe he could direct some of that on the tong leader.
Maybe a confrontation between the lords of Chinatown would reveal skeletons in the closet. It had been a long time since Danny’s own great-grandfather was the wise old leader of the local White Lotus tong, and not all of the tongs were completely benevolent. Maybe one of them would lead Danny to his father’s killer. It would take some careful squeezing, but maybe it would be worth it.
Danny dropped into his sitting room through the skylight in the roof. He took a moment to feel the building before hanging up his jacket and going downstairs. No had been there after he left for his morning outing, as far as he could tell.
The business phone rang as Danny Leong watched the crowd go by on the street. The shop was open, but so far he had sold only a replica of a Japanese tengu to a tourist. Three bucks for three hours was a slow day. He supposed the locals were giving him a wide berth after the last day or so.
Danny picked the receiver up, listening to the cacophony on the other end before saying “Leong Curios.”
“We caught a major deal going down, thanks to you, Danny,” said Billie Gunn. “You should have seen the look on Uncle Benny’s face when I threw him in a cell. He was ready to spit nails.”
“My pleasure,” said Danny. “Watch out for yourself. Mr. Ko will probably be vengeful over this.”
“I doubt it,” said Billie. “He’s not going to risk anything before his arraignment. At this point, he is going to lawyer up and try to motion the evidence out of existence. He might want your identity, so he can find out who ratted on him.”
“A man has the right to face his accuser,” said Danny.
“Unless he votes for a speedy trial,” said Billie. “I have plenty of time to think of a convincing lie about not knowing the identity of the tipster. See ya.”
Danny put up a sign to say he would be out for lunch, then walked to Li Jiane’s restaurant. He automatically listened to the loose talk as he went by. Benny Ko’s arrest had already started making the rounds. Some wondered who would try to fill his shoes and stand up to Jiane’s White Tigers.
He paused at the doors of the Dragon Kanji restaurant. Tong and gang members filled the foyer. They milled about as they waited for the gangster to join them. Some spotted the newcomer standing at the door, and they walked over to him in hostile postures, angrily waving him on.
Danny waited quietly for several seconds before walking away from the door. He went to an alley two buildings down, where he easily bounced up the walls, flipping over the rampart of the building closest to the restaurant. He glided across the rooftops until he stood above Jiane’s office.
Listening, his enhanced hearing penetrated the cement roof. He noted the conversation suddenly stop below him. Li Jiane had stopped in the middle of a sentence. Danny frowned. Somehow they had known he was on the roof. Someone had told them about his hearing.
Using his chi-enhanced senses, he felt the building as well as he could. It seemed clear of detection devices. It should have been impossible for him to have given himself away.
Danny felt a pressure wave cutting the air toward him. He turned, slicing across with his arm. His arm deflected another arm barely. He retaliated with a kick, trying to push this strange intruder outside of his personal space.
“Li Jiane says you are Victor Leong’s offspring,” said the stranger, falling into the neutral stance that Danny held. “He didn’t say you had been trained by the One.”
“He didn’t know,” said Danny, examining his enemy with clear eyes. “The One didn’t say he had trained others before me.”
“He probably thinks I am dead,” said the hatchet man. “I am afraid that I can’t leave alive any of his other students who know I am alive.”
“I won’t be as easy to kill as my father,” said Danny, gambling that this was indeed his father’s assassin.
“That remains to be seen,” said the hatchet man. “I will make this as painless as possible.”
The older man attacked, vibrating the air as he passed. He beat upon Danny’s defense with invisible hands. A loud crack sent the Dragonmage over the edge of the roof.
The Law’s Legionnaire rolled in the air, kicking the nearby wall to slow his descent to the street. He bounced against the brick, flipped, bounced again, and shoulder rolled along the floor of the concrete canyon. He snapped to his feet, hating to be on the defensive.
He knew that his assassin was kicking at him, using the same style of descent he had. He ducked, counterpunching at the blur his instinct said was in front of him. A hand caught the blow, using it as a pivot to spin to a silent landing a few feet away.
The air crackled as a cloud of refuse became deadly bullets with a touch of the hatchet man’s fingers. Danny spun away from the attack, the back of his hand slapping against a brick in the alley wall with a show of green fire. The mortar came apart as the brick struck at the assassin. The hatchet man shattered the projectile with a finger.
Danny leaped forward, trying to overwhelm the other man. His chi danced on the surface of his fists as he tried to pierce the assassin’s defenses. Flames danced in both men’s eyes as their arms pushed the air into wild currents. The assassin blocked a glowing fist with an open hand. Danny rebounded into a car, shattering the passenger window and crumpling the door with his body.
“More of a challenge than your father, but not that much more,” said the hatchet man. “Another twenty years, and I might even work up a sweat. I regret not giving you the time to mature that much.”