Grandfather and grandson walked out of the small place. Louie Lue locked the building up from any intrusion with a key and a set of mystical symbols hastily drawn on the door.
“Backseat, please,” said the spokesman for the Tiger Demons, gesturing with a hand. Louie and Jackie Lue were sandwiched between two of the large men as others piled in the front. The cars pulled away from the curb, heading away from Chinatown on the streets of tropical Honolulu.
“So much for a vacation,” Jackie complained, holding his head on his hands.
“As soon as we find out what is going on, will show you sights,” said Lue so confidently that the Tiger Demons could not even smirk at the remark.
Louie Lue had built his reputation in the Chinatown of Honolulu by accomplishing the impossible and making it look simple and easy. All of these men were aware that, at any time, they would have to fight for their lives, and they watched him with great caution.
The two cars rolled away from the city down the highway, passing Pearl City and then heading north through the valley between the volcanic mountains looming overhead. They arrived at the north shore of Oahu within an hour. The ride had been silent for the men after Jackie’s complaint. It would be up to the master to explain why they had been brought before the judgment of the Tigers.
The cars pulled to a stop in a farmyard outside of the small village of Kahuku. The men piled out, stretching their limbs to restore circulation. The farmhouse beckoned Lue and Jackie forward, and the Tigers formed a crescent behind the two to show their caution and respect. The Tiger Demons had no doubt the two would meet a final end at the hands of the cult’s deadly master.
Louie Lue led the way, pulling aside the outer screen door and opening the wooden door. He stepped inside, Jackie at his back. The inside walls had been knocked down so that one room was left in the house. Heavy curtains draped the walls with painted tigers prowling imaginary jungles. A lit brazier provided smokey light to see by. A very thin Oriental man sat beside the brazier, breathing in the thick, sweet scent that filled the air.
“Ah, Lue,” said the man, eyes bright with an inner light. “I had hoped to avoid your attention for many more years, but alas, it was not to be. I am Hu Mo, the master of ceremonies for the movement.”
“Hu Mo?” said Lue, hiding caution behind a veil of irritation. “You could not come up with better alias? Is not very original.”
“My nom de guerre is not important,” said the Tiger Demon. “All that matters is that your grandson has touched the statue of a yaoguai and has awakened the demon within. I mean to use that connection to draw the demon here so that I might use it as I will.”
“You do not want much,” said Lue. “What happen to number one grandson when this over?”
“He is free to go when the ceremony is done and the yaoguai is ready to be used by me,” said Hu Mo, smiling slightly. “Otherwise it will follow until it catches him and then disposes of him. When that is done, its brothers will awaken and begin their assault on humanity, destroying any who oppose them. I am sure you know this already.”
“What are you saying?” said Jackie, visibly shaken. “Some demon is coming here to kill me, and you want to use me as bait to trap it? Are you insane? I’m not doing that!”
Jackie Lue awoke about an hour later, judging by the cramps in his chained arms and legs. Small cuts littered his face and hands where he had hit the floor in uncontrollable spasms.
“Next time lamentable magician and leader of dangerous cult wants to use you as bait,” said Louie Lue from somewhere close by, “go along with him until you can escape.”
“I am sorry, Grandfather,” said Jackie, unable to move except to squirm slightly against the rough floor. “What do we do now?”
“Wait for demon to arrive to possess your body,” Lue said. “Hope for chance to escape before they know what is happening.”
Jackie hung his head glumly. He was bound tight in his cocoon of metal. He would be of little use if anything was required of him.
Some time later, Hu Mo and a circle of cultists appeared. The Tiger Demons silently lifted Jackie on their shoulders and took him out of the storage room. “We shall return for you when the ceremony is over,” Hu Mo assured the occult detective, checking the wards on the chains holding Lue in place. “Your grandson will be a changed man.”
“That is what I am afraid of,” said Lue quietly. Hu Mo laughed pleasantly as he left the old man to ponder his fate. He would not have laughed so loud if he had known Lue had devised a plan to rescue himself and Jackie from harm and was already carrying it out.
Louie Lue could not work any of his own magic while enchained, but that did not stop him from applying the practical skills he had learned in his younger days as a Honolulu police officer. Working a piece of metal out of his pocket and managing to get his hands in position, he picked the lock as fast as his awkward position would allow. The chains fell noisily away as he stood up.
The door opened as his guard checked on the ruckus he had caused. Lue demonstrated that Jackie wasn’t the only one who knew a martial art by kicking the man’s jaw out of alignment. The occult detective grabbed the guard and dragged him into the cell. The old man adjusted his white derby and straightened the tie of his white suit as he walked to the site of the ceremony. It was time to stop this nonsense once and for all.
The famous detective paused at the door, locking a Tiger Demon in a stranglehold to gain some bit of surprise. He laid the man on the floor, deciding his next step. The ceremony was underway, and Lue knew he didn’t have long.
Lue wrote two symbols on his hand. One of the symbols glowed against his skin, and he faded out of sight. He worked his way through the crowd, trying to avoid a touch that would alert his enemy to his presence. He reached the stone table that had been set up to hold Jackie for his sacrifice to the demon tiger.
The occult detective wrote on the lock with a fingertip, and the chains immediately loosened around Jackie, who began to work his way slowly out of his bondage. Lue stepped away from the altar after writing two more symbols on Jackie’s arm. There was nothing to do now but wait. His trap was set, and he had only to wait for his fish to bite. It wouldn’t be long.
A shadow took form, growing into a large, furred humanoid with a tiger’s head on a large muscular body. It was a yaoguai, a Chinese demon, and it regarded the crowd suspiciously as it approached the wiggling Jackie Lue. Hu Mo held up his hands, prepared to execute his spell. He was not prepared for Jackie to jump to his feet, shedding his chains like water. Lue’s number one grandson leaped from the table, kicking the ghost back through the wall. Jackie landed lightly, smashing the edge of his hand against the nose of a man who had tried to make a grab of the martial artist.
“Lue!” roared the angry Hu Mo. “What do you think you are doing?”
“Don’t worry about my grandfather,” said Jackie, face settled in hard lines, twisting his head with the sound of crackling from his neck. “He’s not the one who’s going to hurt you.”
The first man to rush Jackie as he advanced on Hu Mo got a length of chain around his wrist and was thrown across the table. The second just got the end of the improvised whip across his face from a backlash. The Tiger went down in a heap.
The demon cycled back through the wall, roaring silently in displeasure. A cultist got in its way and received a claw in his back, smashing him across the floor. The other men backed up out of the way.
Jackie dropped the chain as the yaoguai roared down on him. He vaulted the table, kicking the fallen Tiger in the face as he passed. The demon bounded through the dark stone, impervious to normal substances.
“Stop!” roared Hu Mo as Jackie ran toward him. “I said stop!”
“Why don’t you stop?” Jackie said, then ran around the cult leader, putting the man between him and the demon. Hu Mo cursed as he blocked the first two claw strikes with his forearms. Then a jump kick to his back sent him and the demon to the floor, the yaoguai sinking below the surface of the floor as it skidded along.
“What just happened?” Jackie and Lue said to themselves.
Hu Mo clambered to his feet, holding the yaoguai by its neck. “That’s the one I want you to get,” he said, pointing at Jackie. “That’s your body, stupid.” Hu Mo flung the demon at Jackie.
The young martial artist fell on his back, foot extended in a monkey flip. The yaoguai flew over Jackie and crashed into the floor, but Jackie used the rebound from the throw to flip to his feet and spun, sinking into his stance, ready to continue fighting.
None of the Tiger Demons wanted to get close to the fight going on in the center of the room. Only when Hu Mo ordered it did the men unwillingly approach. They were no match for the two combatants exchanging blows.
Louie Lue invisibly approached the fuming Hu Mo and wrote a symbol on his back. Mist enveloped the cult leader head to foot. When it cleared, an orange-yellow humanoid with a dark orange face stood there with a wide mouth and very large ears. A mop of gray brown hair perched atop its head.
“My disguise!” said Hu Mo, holding up his wide arms. “What happened to my disguise?”
Lue leaped into the air, his invisibility lost by going on the offense. He spun in place, extending his leg out. His foot smashed into the enraged Hu Mo, sending him in a stagger. Lue landed lightly as his opponent tried to shrug off the blow.
The Tiger Demons, trying to halt Jackie long enough for him to be held for his possession, found themselves chasing a dervish as he dodged their attacks, redirecting them into the path of the demon tiger who cut them down with its massive claws hooked on the end of its long arms. The cultists were unable to stop themselves from obeying the command of Hu Mo as they kept trying to stop Jackie until they were knocked down senseless.
On the other side of the room, Hu Mo and Lue exchanged a flurry of punches, blocks, and counterpunches to determine whose magic would hold the field. The famous detective knew his human stamina would never keep up with his demonic foe. He needed a trick to win.
He cast his eyes about until he saw a clay jar on the floor in the corner. He retreated in that direction until the jar was at his feet. He ducked a hammering right, snatching the jar up. Straightening, he dropped the open mouth of the jar over Hu Mo’s head. He wrote on the bottom with his finger before the Tiger Demon could stop him. Instantly, the demon was sucked into the old container. Lue clapped the lid on the trap and sealed it with another symbol.
Louie Lue’s move freed the cultists from their leader’s commands. Those that could fled from the house, leaving Jackie and the yaoguai to finish their own fight. The occult detective had his own ideas about what the outcome should be. Lue looked for another container and found a tea pot. He wrote on it hastily as he prepared to execute his plan.
The old man held the tea pot in one hand and the lid in the other, then walked over to the fight. He ignored the shouts of outrage from the jar as he considered his next move. “Number one grandson!” he called, waving the pot.
Both combatants turned on Lue. The yaoguai rushed at him, aware that the pot was some kind of container. Jackie took three steps, jumped on the stone table, and then sailed through the air in a kick that sent both of them down to the ground. The young man rolled away from the demon as it tried to draw an X on his chest, but dust from the floor was the only reward for the thing’s attempt.
The yaoguai bounded to its feet as Jackie backed away on his hands and feet. It roared as it drew back its claws to deal with its suddenly helpless prey. It brought down the killing blow as the tea pot landed in Jackie’s fumbling hands. It tried to stop itself, but its hand went into the top of the pot and kept going. All was blackness and constraint for it as it roared in disapproval and anger, while Lue applied seals on it to keep it trapped.
Louie Lue placed the jar and tea pot in a small vault in the basement below his shop. He withdrew, happy the Tiger Demons were no longer a threat to his beloved Chinatown, and locked the door to the basement as he left.
“This is the life,” said Jackie Lue, laying on a couch in his grandfather’s home above the shop, watching a basketball game on television. “Thank you for letting me stay here for my vacation.”
“No problem,” said Lue, going to his small refrigerator and pulling out a soda. He watched a player sink a jump shot from the three point line, listening to commentary by Dick Vitale. “You want to take tour tomorrow?”
“Sure,” said Jackie, going and grabbing a soda for himself as the game was replaced by a commercial. “But what about your business?”
“Think I can take small vacation without problem,” said Louie Lue, sipping at his soda.
The front door banged open with the clatter of the bell. Lue and Jackie ran down to see what was wrong. A man stood in the shop clutching an emerald, bandages covering his face.
“Louie Lue?” he gasped out. “You have to help me break the curse of Killarney.”
Grandfather and grandson exchanged a glance. “Tell me everything,” said the world-famous occult detective, a small smile on his face.