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Story #7 of the Fathoms Deep series.


In the kwoon, Peter listened with his body, letting the silent stillness of the room become a smooth canvas upon which movement could slash like flung paint.  When the slash came, he blocked and flowed into an attack that was so instinctive the skill had to have come from formative memories.  He knew these moves deep down inside his muscles, in his bones.  He understood their rhythms of force and yield. The sounds made in this kwoon had once echoed off the stone walls of his childhood and his father’s next attack was as familiar as the feel of those walls and just as unyielding.  Peter could see his ‘opponent’ in his mind’s eye even as he felt his living, breathing vividness.  His own powerful punch was blocked, its momentum utilized, then reclaimed as Peter evaded a trap being built by the turn of a shoulder and the shift of a hip.  Spinning free once more into the smooth blank canvas of the air, Peter listened with his body again, an act that now included catching the scent of cloth and the humidity of sweat. His concentration wasn’t fading, it was sharpening and when a kick came, aimed at his chest, Peter leaned back to avoid it, grabbed the extended leg and a second later Kwai Chang Caine was flat on his back on the mat, letting loose the gut-laughter of pure, startled joy.  

“Well done, my son,” his father said triumphantly as Peter leaned down to offer him a hand up; the strong clasp was just as triumphant as the voice.  “Well done.”

“Not too shabby,” Peter agreed, doing nothing to suppress his grin.  Standing now, still riding on pride, his father grabbed Peter’s face and kissed his forehead.  The love between them, both the old and the new, pulsed like a heartbeat, and Peter draped an arm over his father’s shoulders, letting himself feel it.    

“We should end now so I can leave victorious.”

“Yes,” Pop agreed happily.  “Shall we have a meal before you leave?”

“Yeah, sure, that’d be great.”

 It had gotten too cold to sit on the balcony and it was still too bright outside for Peter’s photophobic eyes so they ate in his father’s apothecary which was almost like being outside with all its garden-scents of soil and plants, dried herbs and flowers and what he thought of as the scent of the color “green”. 

“What are we having?” Peter asked, letting his father lead him to a chair.

“Mrs. Bai has given us hot and sour soup…and dumplings.”


Over the course of eating meals with Pop, Peter had discovered that, for certain foods like dumplings, chopsticks were actually easier to use than a fork when he pretended they were miniature white canes.  The same sweeping technique worked for finding a dumpling as it did for finding furniture.  This amused Ramona whenever she was around to observe it.  She enjoyed seeing him treat his plate like a crowded living room. 

“How are things in Chinatown?  Any juicy gossip?” Peter asked, finding a dumpling, pinching it carefully and depositing it into his mouth.   With his glasses off, he could see a blurry smear of brown edged with green then a vague dark solidness that slowly disintegrated and began to fall like black rain, the sense of movement made him close his eyes to keep from getting seasick.  

“I do not…gossip,” his father said.

“Oh, right. Of course.”

Peter took a spoonful of his soup.  It was bursting with flavor and blessedly easy to eat.

“Bao’s mom sure makes amazing soup.  What did you do to earn it?”

“I am protecting her son.”

“Wait, what?  Bao?

“No, her eldest son, Aang.”

“What are you protecting him from?”

“The Flying Dragons.”

Peter’s father said this in Cantonese.  The Flying Dragons were a street gang that had been notoriously difficult to suppress; trying to do so was like playing a game of whack-a-mole.  As soon as one cell was suppressed, another one popped up in a different neighborhood.

“The gang has a presence this far south of Federal street?”


“Are you…engaging…with them?” Peter asked, feeling his chest get tight.  His father was incredibly capable but the Flying Dragons were, collectively, ruthless and even a Shaolin Priest could find himself dangerously outnumbered.

“Only when they…engage…with me,” His father answered cryptically.  Peter carefully trailed the table until he found Pop’s hand and covered it with his own.

“Be careful,” he said softly.  “Please.”

The hand, under his, turned and warmly clasped Peter’s wrist.

“I will.”

After a while, Peter found another dumpling. 

“When you say engage--.” he began but got cut off by the sounds of a door banging open and running feet.

“Master Caine!” a woman gasped from behind Peter, bringing a gust of cool outside air with her like a ghostly visitation.  “You must come quickly.  My mother is hurt!”

 Peter stood up instinctively ready for action even though there wasn’t really anything he could do to help.

“I will come,” Pop said and then he surprised Peter by touching his arm and saying,

“Will you come?”


“Yes.  Quickly.  Bring Hank.”

As a cop, Peter had seen more than his share of muggings, so he wasn’t shocked that someone was capable of beating up a tiny eighty-eight year old Chinese woman but that didn’t stop him from feeling an anger so dark it made his insides feel charred.  Hearing Mrs. Xie sob from both pain and fear was shredding Peter’s heart.  He held her hand, feeling her fingers--her whole body--tremble.  She had a broken wrist and so many cuts and bruises that Peter could feel the extra heat of her injuries flowing off of her like a tide of woundedness.  She was refusing to go to a hospital, of course, because people died in hospitals and she was refusing to report the attack to the police because of a simple, cultural fear of white authority figures.  Her daughter, Fang, was also afraid of having to reveal her green card status. 

While his father was treating Mrs. Xie’s physical wounds Hank was treating Mrs. Xie’s emotional ones by giving her some Labrador love, Peter asked Fang if he could borrow a phone and was led to the kitchen where he called Ramona.

“She might talk to you if I make the introductions,” Peter said after explaining the situation.  “And tell her that you won’t report her to immigration.”

“Give me the address. I’m on my way.”

“Come alone and use a civilian vehicle.”


Half an hour later, when Ramona arrived, Peter pulled her into a deliberate hug that he hoped Mrs. Xie would see, and introduced her as his ‘betrothed’ calling upon Chinese tradition.  He wanted Mrs. Xie to see Ramona as part of the Shaolin priest’s family, not an authority figure.  This seemed to work, especially after Fang let go of her fear of being deported.  It took a while but with Peter translating from Cantonese, Ramona was able to take Mrs. Xie’s statement and got permission to file an official police report.  Everybody drank a whole lot of tea.

“You made that happen,” Ramona said as she led Peter down the hallway to the bathroom.  “No way she would have talked to me without you acting as a liaison.”

“She still might not file charges if you make an arrest,” Peter said, desperate to offload the tea.      

“This room is really narrow,” Ramona warned and she was right.  He felt like a giant in a hobbit house as he gingerly made his way to the john.



The door to the Silk Road Tea House opened, as if by magic, with a shimmer of windchimes and Hank hesitated, giving Peter the impression that someone was standing in the doorway blocking the entrance.  People were often rendered paralyzed by the sight of a blind guy with his guide dog, especially up close; they tended to freeze and then scramble frantically out of the way.  This was, no doubt, due to the power of Hank’s overwhelming awesomeness.

“Inside,” Peter told Hank, giving him permission to break the stalemate.  There was an urgent rustle as the person in the way did their level best to flatten themselves against the door.  Peter ignored this.  He was blind, he could pretend not to know anyone was even there. 

The Tea House smelled predictably herbaceous.  Peter liked this place because it was quiet, the lighting was soft and he’d made friends with Manchu, the proprietor who’d recently helped him out of a jam.  A few weeks ago, Peter had been trying to go straight to the metro after a sparring session with Pop when his energy level had suddenly tanked, and he’d come inside the Tea House looking for a telephone.  He’d been about to call for backup when Manchu, a soft-spoken, light-footed man of indeterminate age, had solved Peter’s problem by treating him with such kindness that, after twenty minutes in his care, he’d no longer needed the backup.  As it turned out, all he’d needed was a soft chair, a cup of white tea and a quiet corner in which to rest.

The tea house was quiet now except for the sound of a few murmured voices.  Distantly, Peter heard the hiss of a steam wand and he followed it to the front counter.


Hank had become a celebrity after the incident with Ming Hin’s sign and Jing, Manchu’s daughter who worked behind the counter of the cafe, loved him unashamedly claiming that he’d saved one of her little cousins from getting crushed.  Peter grinned when he heard the quick clip of Jing’s shoes as she abandoned her post.  Normally quiet and reserved, Hank made her defy her name (which meant “calm”).

“Oh, you are so handsome!  I have a treat for you!”  She gushed in Cantonese.

“Lucky me,” Peter joked and heard Jing laugh.

“I do have a treat for you, too, Peter.”

“Oh yeah? What is it?”

“Nyanya. Pineapple tarts.


“Why don’t you just go sit and I’ll bring it out to you.  Your table is ready.”
            “My table?” Peter asked.

“Why yes.”

Peter was confused.  He’d only come into the tea house a few times.  He didn’t know he had a table. 

“You are son of the priest so your table is ready.”

“Can you show me where it is?” Peter asked, hoping someone else wasn’t getting kicked out to make room for the son of the priest. 

“Of course.”

Peter told Hank to follow Jing and soon he was in his VIP spot.  He got Hank tucked into his VIP spot and, a minute later, the sounds of canine snores wafted up from under the table like smoke from a chimney.   When Jing came back, she touched Peter’s shoulder and told him that his tea (which he hadn’t ordered) was at twelve o’clock and his tart was at six.  She’d learned the code the first day they met and never failed to use it.  Most people were really conscientious like that once they knew what to do.

Peter enjoyed his cup of tea and was almost done with his tart when he felt a small, curious presence hovering only about a foot away below shoulder level.  This was not an unusual occurrence.  Peter, and especially Hank, often inspired the curiosity of little kids.  Peter was all the time hearing “doggie!” as he passed by.

This particular curious kid finally made her presence known by greeting him in Cantonese.  He greeted (her?) back, in kind, waiting to hear the voice of an embarrassed adult jumping in with the Chinese version of “Don’t bother that man!”

Switching to English, the kid said,

“There’s a dog under your table.”

“Yeah, I know.  His name is Hank.  Do you want to pet him?”

“Can I?”

“Sure.  Hank’s a guide dog so you shouldn’t pet him when he’s busy working, but you can pet him now.”

Peter gave Hank a gentle nudge under the table with his foot to wake him up and, a second later, heard the thump of his tail.

After that, the little girl, whose name was Naia, was full of questions which Peter answered patiently, enjoying the fact that her concerns were just as logistical as his own often were.  Naia wanted to know how he knew it was morning, how he put on his clothes, how he found his breakfast and…thankfully, Peter got spared from answering the question of how he found the toilet with his poop when Naia’s mom finally showed up just in time to overhear the last question and all but die of mortification.

“It’s OK,” Peter said, laughing, “Hey, Naia, why don’t you see how many things you can do with your eyes closed and then you can tell me how you do it.”


Peter could imagine Naia spending the rest of the day bouncing off the furniture like a tiny unguided missile.

He was leaving The Silk Road when someone stopped him by touching his arm.  In Chinatown, it wasn’t uncommon for people to randomly grab him thinking he needed help so he was ready to explain that he wasn’t lost (this time), but then an unsteady voice speaking in Cantonese said.

“You helped Mrs. Xie, can you help me too?” 

It was a woman who seemed like the opposite of Mrs. Xie, young and tall.

“What do you mean?” Peter asked, keeping his voice low.

“My father and I were attacked last week on the street.”

Peter turned more fully to face this woman.  He could feel a kind of radiating energy from her that, at first, he’d thought was fear but now it seemed more like suppressed rage.  She was very upset.

“Yes,” he said slowly, “I can help you.  Do you and your father want to file a police report? 

“My father can’t,” she said.  “He’s dead.”



Peter wondered if there was some kind of force drawing him back to the 101st Precinct in Chinatown.  A force that was only made stronger by his attempts to resist having to confront the memories that hurt him so deeply now.  He didn’t want to come here.  He didn’t want to listen to the sounds of his old life swarming around him like circling ghosts.  It was one thing to live with amputative loss, to have to try to reattach your severed life to something marginally functional; it was another thing to invite in all the phantom pain. 

Walking up the steps with Hank and Fēn Ling, Peter knew that he had to do better than last time.  He couldn’t just let his mind simply ‘check out’ while his body stayed.  Fēn spoke very little English and her only experience with police had been getting clubbed and knocked unconscious by an anti-riot cop during a protest in Hong Kong.  She’d been protesting the fact that she worked twelve hours a day, six days a week in a factory burning her fingers at a plastic molding machine and she earned the equivalent of $120 a month. 

It had taken Peter over three hours to persuade her to get this far.  He would have called Ramona again, to come to her house, but Fēn didn’t want to frighten her grandfather who’d once been detained and tortured by MPS officials.

“You’re being very brave,” He told her when they stepped inside and he felt her hands clamp tight on his forearm.  She dragged him to a stop and he could hear her breathing get really fast and shallow.

“It’s all right,” he said gently.  “Would you like to pet Hank again?”

She didn’t answer.  She just stood stiff as a board, panting. 

“Close your eyes,” he said, “imagine your village in Sheung Wan.  Can you put yourself there?”

“Yes,” she gasped.

“Remember your grandmother’s mooncakes?  Can you taste them?”


She was calming down a little.

“And the fireworks? Can you see them, hear them snapping?”


She took a deep breath and he felt some of her tension ease.

“Whenever you need to, we can stop and calm down like this again. I promise you’ll be safe.  Hank’s here.  I’m here.  No one will hurt you.  The police in America aren’t like they are back home.”

“Where do we go now?” Fēn asked tentatively.  She hadn’t loosened her two-handed grip on his arm. 

“We’re just going to keep going straight until we find one of my friends.  Is that all right?  Are you ready?”

She was silent for long enough for Hank to decide to sit down and lean against Peter’s foot.  Around them, Peter heard the sound of distant footsteps, voices, ringing phones.  He was glad no one approached them.  Finally, Fēn said,

“All right. Yes.  I am ready.”

“Hank, forward,” Peter said and they moved slowly forward until the wider space they’d been in narrowed to a doorway and Peter took a step over a threshold that he didn’t want to cross.  It was knowing that Fēn was experiencing even worse pain than he was that propelled him forward.  He was only three steps into what sounded like a particularly crowded bullpen when a familiar hand came to his shoulder on the “Hank” side gently stopping his forward progress and he heard Kermit’s worried voice.

“Peter?  It’s Kermit. What are you—?”

“Good.  It’s you,” Peter said.  He wanted to reach out to Kermit but had Fēn clinging to him like a burr and wasn’t about to let go of Hank’s harness.

“We need a quiet place with some recording equipment but preferably not an interrogation room, if possible.  This is Fēn Ling.  She doesn’t speak much English.  She’s here to report her father’s murder and she’s really scared to be here.”

“She’s not the only one,” Kermit murmured, squeezing Peter’s shoulder.

“This is not about me,” Peter managed to say.  “She’s going to bolt if we don’t do this quickly.”

“OK,” Kermit said, shifting gears.  “Come with me.”

“Hank, follow Kermit.”

Fēn was starting to breathe fast again.  The bullpen was roiling with noise.  It was a busy night. 

“You’re safe,” Peter reminded her, “We’re almost there.  Just hang on a little longer.  You’re doing so well.”

Hank made a right-hand turn and Peter smelled burnt coffee.  A door closed with a clatter of window blinds and things got a whole lot quieter.

“We’re in the break room,” Kermit said.  “I need to go get…stuff.  Will you be OK in here?  There’s a table about six feet straight ahead of you.”

“Yeah, we’ll…” Peter took a deep breath.  “We’ll be OK.”    

“Yes, you will,” Kermit said, his voice suddenly closer.  “I’m getting Paul and Ramona.  We’ve all got your back, OK?”

Peter nodded and when Kermit squeezed his shoulder again, Peter wanted to beg him to both stay and go.  He honestly didn’t know how long he was going to last smelling breakroom coffee and listening to the sounds of night in the precinct.  After Kermit left, Peter had to help Fēn sit down.  She was shaking and almost too stiff to bend her knees. 

“Let’s go back home to Sheung Wan,” he murmured, finding his own chair next to Fēn’s and telling Hank to “go visit” her, giving him permission to put his big furry head in Fēn’s lap.

“You’re in your grandmother’s house.”

Fēn took hold of Peter’s hand and squeezed tight.

“She’s making mooncakes for the Spring festival.”

There was another rattle of blinds that made Fēn flinch and Peter caught Ramona’s scent.

“Peter,” she said so shakily that his throat closed and he couldn’t speak.  He just shook his head.

“I’m OK.  This is—.” he tried, stalled out, lowered his head, tried again, “This is Fēn Ling.  She needs to report her father’s death.  It was another mugging.  It’s taken a lot of courage for her to come.”
            “Yes,” Ramona said and, from her fervent tone, Peter knew she wasn’t talking about Fēn.

“I’m here to translate,” Peter pressed on, “And let her know that she’s safe. She’s used to cops in Hong Kong beating people up.”

“Ms. Ling, thank you for coming in.  You’re safe,” Ramona said to Fēn even as she came over to stand by Peter’s chair and put a hand on his back starting to rub in a way that was probably very unobtrusive, visually, but which felt vital to Peter who wanted, almost more than he could stand, to simply wrap his into arms around her and beg her to get him out of there. Instead, he translated Ramona’s words into Cantonese.

“I’m going to get you both some water,” Ramona said, stepping away to open a refrigerator door; it made a padded sucking sound. 

When the window blinds clattered again, Fēn jerked in surprise.

“How many people will come?” she hissed desperately, “why are there so many people?”

“These are my… family,” Peter said, trying to sound soothing, “They’re here to see me as much as you. Do you want me to tell them to leave?”

“No.  No. Your family is OK.”

But Fēn’s fierce grip on Peter’s hand got even tighter.

“Peter.” Paul spoke from the doorway, “I can get a translator.  It doesn’t have to be you.”

“Yes, it does,” Peter said, needing to take a deep breath but feeling steadier than he would have thought possible an hour ago. “She trusts me.  I’m the son of the priest and I helped Mrs. Xie and her daughter recently so…It needs to be me.”

“All right.  If you’re staying I’m staying,” Paul said gruffly.  Ramona lifted Peter’s free hand and molded it around a cold bottle.  The way she moved with deliberate slowness showed him that she was trying to work comfort into her every touch.  Neither one of them were free to act the way they really wanted to right now so she was weaving comfort in subtext.  When Ramona gave Fēn her water bottle Peter heard it crinkle loudly as Fēn squeezed it and then he felt a splash as she nearly dropped the bottle.

“OK,” Ramona murmured.  “That’s OK.  I’m just going to set it right here.”

Another door-rattle and the rise and fall of noise from the bullpen signaled that someone had come in.

“Hey Pete.  It’s Blake and Kermit.  We’re setting up the recording equipment.  Are you OK?  Need anything? 

Peter just shook his head.  How many people? He wondered just as Fēn had.  How many people will remind me of how it used to be?  Echoes of the past seemed to texture the air with their sounds, their smells, the feel of the walls around him.  He could feel himself starting to pull away from it all.  There was a distinct drifting sensation. 


She took his hand snatching it quickly as if she knew she was performing a kind of rescue. 

“Can you make sure nobody else comes in?  I…when people come in I…”

“Yes,” she said, squeezing his hand “I’ll make sure no one else comes in.”

“And I’m leaving,” Blake said softly. 

“OK,” Ramona said, “It’s just me and Kermit and Paul.  Is that OK?”

“Yeah,” Peter rasped.

“So, let’s get started,” Kermit said.

They got started and the process was slow, an uphill climb.  Fēn faltered numerous times and Peter understood her pain.  He knew what it was like to lose a father under violent circumstances.  When she finally broke, Peter pulled her into his arms aching along with her, his own heart stumbling.  She’d had to put a fence around her fear and grief using the cold stones of words, speaking each one in a room full of frightening strangers in a foreign country.  Her bravery humbled him.  When it was all over, Peter wanted to take her home so that she wouldn’t have to deal with more strangers but he was far too tired. 

“I’ll drive her home,” Paul said, crouching down in front of both Peter and Fēn.  Peter felt Paul’s hand on his knee, heavy and warm. 

“Remind her that I’m your father—other father—whatever--and that she’s safe with me.  I’ll drive her home.”

“OK,” Peter said and, when he was satisfied that Fēn wasn’t too afraid to go with Paul, he let them leave.  As soon as Fēn was out of the room, Peter felt his remaining energy simply drain out of him and he let out a long, exhausted sigh.  Ramona did what she’d been waiting to do the whole time, she sat on his lap and hugged him.

“Hold onto me,” She murmured and he did, wrapping his arms tight--tight--around her. 

“Oh God…”

“I know.”  She rubbed his back, cupped his neck, held on. 

Peter breathed in her scent and thought about how it had become the scent of home for him. She had become his home. Take me home.

“I need to get out of here,” Peter said.  Pulling back, Ramona framed his face.

“I know.  God, look at you. You’re so exhausted.  Are you OK to walk?”

“I think so.”

Fatigue dragged at him.  He felt sick and dislocated.  When he stood up, he felt an odd sense of dizziness; it wasn’t real dizziness, it was just his mind going completely blank.  He had no idea what was around him or which way he was facing.  He was just a guy, standing in complete darkness.  When warmth came to his side and Kermit put his arm around Peter’s back, a hand firm and strong on his ribs, Peter draped his arm over his shoulder, gratefully.

“Thanks,” he breathed, ducking his head. 

“I’ve got you,” Kermit murmured.  “There’s no rush.”

The gentleness of Kermit’s words did something to Peter’s ability to breathe.  Things got real shaky. 


“Easy.  Take a minute.”

Ramona came to stand in front of Peter.  She put a hand on his chest, then his face.

“We’re facing the door of the breakroom.  We’re going to go out, turn right and then just head straight until we get to the stairs. I’ve got Hank.  He’s doing fine.  Are you ready?”

He leaned into her touch.  He didn’t know if he was ready.  Tears filled his eyes behind the sunglasses. 


When they stepped out into the bullpen, the sounds hit him like a heavy shroud.  It was hard to move through the heaviness, the thickness, of that sound.  Kermit propelled him forward.  As he walked Peter realized, in the most elemental way possible, that he was on the flipside of his old life.  He was behind the curtain of it.  On this side--on the blindness side--he had no clarity, only a crushing sense of loss.

“Stay with me,” Kermit murmured.  “Almost there.”

Almost where?  Where am I going?  Where is my life?

They made it out into the chilled night air.  They made it to someone’s car. All the surfaces were cold.  Hank put his head into Peter’s lap, giving him warmth.  Ramona kept her hand on him, always touching him somewhere.  Eventually, the car stopped and Peter got pulled out.  Kermit’s hands were strong and sure.  He knew where he was going.  He had a purpose.  Inside, stepping into the sudden warmth that was ‘home’, Kermit took him to the living room couch and helped him sit down. 

“You’re spiraling, aren’t you?  Peter?  You need to snap out of it.”

Snap out of it? Easy for you to say.


“Just go,” he said.  Then, after a sigh, “Thanks for your help.”

“I’m coming over tomorrow,” Kermit said stubbornly.  “I’m not letting you spin out.  You’re getting back on track tomorrow.”

  Peter said nothing to that.  After Kermit left, Ramona sat down next to him on the couch and took his hand. 

“I’m just going to go to bed,” Peter said.  She squeezed his hand as if she wasn’t going to let him go but then she said “OK.”

“Can you feed Hank and take him out?”

“Of course.”

He was done.  He was tapping out.  All he wanted to do was sleep and escape to oblivion.



But he didn’t, of course.  He fell into a dream like it was an open manhole and landed in the sewer of memory.  There must have been something about Fēn that was similar enough to remind him of them… of those chained-up girls they’d found in the back lot of Big Yellow Storage years ago when he’d still been partnered with Epstein.  It had been a hot, bright day and the smell that had come blooming up out of that storage unit had been worse than roadkill.  Peter would never forget that smell.  It was the smell of human slavery.  The girls had looked like cave dwellers, paleolithic, with big eyes, matted hair and skin-covered bones.  Several had died of the heat and dehydration.  The rest were well on their way toward completing the process of dying.  Those eyes had screamed at Peter from out of the depths of hell.  The youngest girl, they found out later, had been twelve years old.  Those eyes screamed and those voices, too—as weak and hoarse as they were—they screamed and screamed and screamed…

…And Peter woke to the sound of Ramona’s alarm clock going off with a high-pitched buzz.  Rolling, nauseated, out of bed, he groped for the bathroom, found the toilet and retched without actually vomiting.  His stomach was empty.  Cold sweat bloomed all over his skin as he got caught in a cycle of dry heaving, unable to stop.  Distantly, he heard Ramona talking to him.  He heard the sound of water running in the sink and then he felt a wet washcloth press to the back of his neck as he knelt over the toilet. 

“OK,” Ramona was saying over and over.  She took the cloth, got it wet again, and pressed it to his forehead. 

“Shh. OK.”

Finally, he stopped and the small bathroom filled up with the sawing sounds of his breathing.  Hank bumped against him with his body trying to press close.  Peter let him but didn’t have the wherewithal to pet him. 

“Here’s some water,” Ramona said, pressing a plastic cup into his hand.  “Take slow sips.”

He took slow sips of the metallic tasting water and kept his eyes pressed closed as if forced to hoard the terrible after-image of twenty pairs of tortured eyes, keeping them for himself. This bathroom had a skylight; it was its own kind of torture chamber in the mornings.       

“You’re sick.  I’m going to call in and stay home with you.”

“No,” Peter croaked.  “I’m not sick.  It was a dream.  A nightmare.”

Ramona put her hand on his cheek, showing him with this gesture that she’d crouched down near him. 

“All the more reason.”

He shook his head feeling her hand shift to brush his hair back. 

“Let’s get out of here.  This room hurts your eyes even when they’re closed.  Unless you’re going to be sick again.” 

“No.  I’m…done.”

Ramona took his hand and tugged.  Sitting on the edge of his bed again, Hank nosed in between Peter’s knees and started to press his big head against Peter’s stomach. 

“I’m OK,” Peter told both Hank and Ramona, starting to rub Hank’s ears.  Ramona got onto the bed and wrapped her arms around his neck from behind him.  Her palm pressed to his chest.  She kissed the top of his head.

“A nightmare?”

“It was a storage unit full of sex-trafficked girls.  Some of them were dead.”

“Oh God…Baby.  I’m sorry.”

“I think Fēn reminded me.  She has a daughter that she had to leave back in Hong Kong.  There’s a little girl out there, eight thousand miles away living in one of the poorest places imaginable without her mom and now Fēn has lost her father so…”

He trailed off and felt Ramona’s arms tighten around him.

“We’re starting a task force.  We’re going to get the fuckers.”

Peter nodded and rubbed his face. 

“You helped so much yesterday.  You know you did.  I know it was so hard but we couldn’t have done it without you. Fēn and her family and Mrs. Xie are all gonna get justice because of you.  I believe that.”

She couldn’t guarantee it, of course.  They both knew that.  The Flying Dragons were a force to be reckoned with.  Even making a few arrests wasn’t going to stop them.

“Don’t stay home.  You have work to do.”

And he had, what?  Meaningless homework assignments?

He felt Ramona sigh.  She eased off the bed and came around to touch his cheek.  He held himself still, eyes closed, waiting for her to leave. 

“Can I call and keep you updated?”

“No,” Peter said, his throat raw. 


“Go to work,” he said dully, feeling empty, hollowed out.  He felt like a shell.  The person he used to be was gone and the new person was…unformed.  He just wanted to be alone.  Ramona had nothing left to say.  He’d closed the door on any further conversation.  She kissed his cheek and he reached up to touch her briefly on the shoulder.

“Stay safe,” he said softly. 


Kermit told Paul that he might not be back after his lunch break and they both knew why.  Paul looked like he wanted to come with but Kermit looked pointedly at the stack of files on Paul’s desk and said “I got this.”

“We’re gonna be tag-teaming,” Paul said.  “I can call out the big guns if I need to.”

‘The big guns’ meant Annie, of course.  

“I’ll let you know,” Kermit said, giving the doorframe a farewell knuckle tap.

 He drove vigilantly through the streets of Chinatown keeping an eye out for signs of the gang activity he knew was brewing below the surface.  Every once in a while, driving through an American city felt a lot like driving through Kosovo.  He got the same sense of impending violence.  Today felt like that; like the last day of a cease-fire.  The brightness of the afternoon was falsely cheerful.  There was a high-grade glare to the light. 

The knock at Peter’s door got answered by a tell-tale bark.  Hank recognized Kermit’s scent and had just ‘outed’ his partner as being home. 

“I know you’re in there,” Kermit called through the closed door.  To his credit, Peter didn’t answer back with a ‘fuck off’ and when he opened the door he was dressed in actual clothes.  A good sign. 

“I brought pizza,” Kermit said. 

“You’re supposed to be on duty,” Peter said as Hank went crazy around them, the sound of his toenails like two people tap dancing to different songs.

“Special dispensation,” Kermit said.

Peter squeezed his eyes shut.

“Come in.  I need to close this door.”

Kermit stepped in and closed the door behind him.  It was like closing the lid of a box.  Inside, unsurprisingly, every light was off and every curtain was drawn.  It was dim as a cave. 

“All I have is beer and water…Unless Ramona put something in the fridge that I don’t know about.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Kermit said, watching Peter wander into the kitchen, noting the way he touched the wall and then a door frame like he was walking on the deck of a ship. 

“Are you feeling OK?” Kermit asked.

“Peachy,” Peter said, making Kermit smirk.

“Uh-huh. I meant physically.  You seem a little…seasick.”

“I hate keeping my eyes closed in my own fucking house but…”

“But what?” Kermit asked, getting a prickle of alarm.

“Stuff’s been…moving.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing.  Never mind.”

Kermit frowned and walked into the kitchen, setting the pizza down and rounding in front of Peter stopping his forward progress just by standing in front of him.  Peter was getting a wider range of awareness when it came to sensing that people were there.  Kermit figured that had something to do with the way he’d been training with his father.

“What do you mean?” He asked again.  Peter sighed, half turned away, seeming to have forgotten where he was going but determined to keep moving.  Kermit reached out and took his arm.  There was a tense moment in which Kermit sensed that Peter was about to practice his Kung Fu.  Then the moment passed and Peter sighed again, pushing a hand through his hair.

“The stuff I see.  It’s moving more.  Like, melting.  Lots of downward motion.  It throws my balance off a little bit.”

“Maybe you should--.”

“Don’t,” Peter snapped. Kermit closed his mouth.  Peter didn’t want him acting like a mother.  That was fine. Kermit knew his mother’s telephone number.

“Let’s have some pizza,” Kermit said. 

“You go ahead.  I’m not hungry.”

Peter deliberately pulled his arm away from Kermit, turned around and started walking towards the living room.  Kermit waited to see if he would sit on the couch.  He didn’t.  He was just going to wander aimlessly around looking like he might puke at any moment. It was nerve wracking.   

“Peter, you need to talk about last night.”

“Do I?”


“Who’s your talk therapist?”

It was Kermit’s turn to run a hand through his hair.  The kid was right that Kermit himself had never been very good at talking about his feelings.  He’d just come back from deployments and gotten into bar fights.  He was really good at turning a beer bottle into a weapon.  He was really good at turning anything into a weapon. 

“I’ll talk if you will,” Kermit said.  “And I’ll tell you that you can be proud of what you did yesterday.  That was brutal.  But you did it.”

Peter walked into the edge of his coffee table and cursed.  Kermit got the distinct impression that he would have upended the fucking coffee table if it hadn’t been for Hank who was right there following Peter faithfully around. 

“We said we were going to burn this thing,” Peter muttered. 

“I’ll help,” Kermit said.   Finally, Peter sat down on the couch, flopping into it with a long, defeated sigh.  When he rubbed his face, groaned and then let his head fall back, Kermit thought maybe they were getting somewhere. 

“I feel like shit,” Peter admitted. 

“Why?” Kermit asked, coming to sit down next to his friend.  Hank greeted him with a wag but then shoved his head into Peter’s lap.  His wagging tail hit the edge of the coffee table with a steady rhythmic thump.

“Maybe because I’m surrounded by cops,” Peter said bitterly.  “I live with a cop.”

“You knew she was a cop when you started things up with her.”

Peter’s jaw clenched.  His fists clenched and then released.  Kermit could feel his tension like an electric pulse. 

“Yeah,” he said, sounding resigned.

“Peter.  Do you realize that, last night, you were just as much a cop as you’ve ever been?  In fact, I’ve never seen you be a better cop than you were last night.  That was the job.  You did the job.”

“I’m not a fucking cop!” Peter exploded.  The words came out in a roar that made Hank flinch and sit on his butt.  Peter shot to his feet.  “Don’t act like I am.  What are you trying to do? Torture me?  I’m not a fucking cop.”  Peter fisted his hair with both hands and Kermit saw his chest working as he breathed.  Standing up more slowly, Kermit stood right in front of him.  He lifted his hands, wanting to touch his friend, not daring to. 

“But you were,” Kermit insisted, his voice low and soft.  “You really were.”

“I’m not a cop,” Peter said again, his voice thick with unshed tears.  He dropped his arms and Kermit, deciding to risk it, put his hands on Peter’s shoulders getting close. 

“Look. There’s so much more to the job than carrying a gun and walking the streets.  What you did last night was a big part of the job.  If that’s not being a cop then it’s something very close to it and it was something vitally important.  Who else could have gotten a terrified, traumatized Chinese woman with a serious language barrier into the 101st last night?  Who else could have been compassionate and understood her culturally?  You even helped her understand the legal process. You advocated for her.  You were the exact person she needed you to be.  Isn’t this what you’ve been going to school for?  Isn’t this a really good reason to go to law school?”

Peter stood still.  Kermit could see his wheels turning.  He could see that some kind of seed that had already been planted was germinating now. 

“It was really hard,” Kermit continued, feeling it all dawn on him, too as he spoke.  “But part of that--or most of that--was because it felt like it was your old life.  Like you were separate.  Like you weren’t part of things.  But you were.  You were central to the whole thing.  You were being a cop, a lawyer, a cultural liaison—all of it.  Peter…that’s a job.”

“That’s a job,” Peter repeated slowly, quietly. 

“Yeah.  A really important job.”

Peter reached up and covered his face with his hands.  He just stood there breathing.  Breathing. 
            “That’s a job,” he said again.


Kermit, who had let go of his shoulders, took hold of them again, squeezing.  The wheels were still turning.  Slowly, carefully, Peter made his way back to the couch and sat down again.  He patted his leg and when Hank came, he stroked his head apologetically, ponderously. Thinking.  He had a lot to think about, Kermit realized. 

“I’m gonna leave,” Kermit said.  “The pizza’s yours.”

“OK. Yeah,” Peter said distractedly, staring out into the middle distance making no attempt to track Kermit’s progress as he got up, put on his jacket and walked out, closing the door quietly behind him.



Kwai Chang Caine felt his son’s presence and changed directions.  He always had a running list in his head of people who needed his help in all its many forms.  There was the elderly who suffered from loneliness and fragile bodies, the children like jewel stones who couldn’t end up lost treasures, the women with empty pantries, the chronically angry men…His work was never done.  But when his son needed him, he changed directions; and Peter, right now, was in great need.  Caine had been feeling it since last night as a hollow ache in his chest.  He’d been breathing through it, waiting, knowing that, if there was something he could do, it would eventually reveal itself to him if he was patient, if he yielded instead of exerting force. 

His first sight of Peter came two blocks later and made him stop dead in his tracks, struck (as he would always be) by the sublime reality of the young man walking towards him.  It would never stop hitting him like a bolt of joy.  It would never stop handing him back his tattered soul freshly mended.  Peter Caine, alive and--if not entirely well then getting there day by day.  Thank all the Gods.

“Something is troubling you,” Caine said without preamble, falling into step with his son as he drew near. 

“What makes you think that? Is my qi sending out an invisible bat signal?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“Yeah, well, let’s go inside before we talk about it.  This is a very-observant--street we’re walking on here.”

Caine raised his eyebrow at that but nodded crisply.

“All right.”

Lacing his fingers, Caine walked silently beside his son, scanning said street very carefully on both sides and above, skimming his gaze across the rooflines, feeling his muscles fall into the supple state of alertness that was needed to repel an attack.  He sensed a coming storm, and not just the one overhead that was darkening the clouds.

“Inside,” Peter told Hank as soon as they got to the (now dormant) perfume plant.  It would not need to be replaced, Caine realized, even though he would replace it anyway just to maintain whatever momentary ease brought to his son.  In fact, perhaps, for now, a fragrant Daphne?

Peter gave Hank a treat from his pocket and removed his harness, releasing the dog to go find his toys.  The people of Chinatown had begun leaving them on Caine’s doorstep like offerings to Taingou the Heavenly Dog. As far as Caine was concerned Hank was a Heavenly dog and should be treated as such.  Peter began taking things off and Caine collected each item like a butler: coat, gloves, hat, blindfold…Peter let his sunglasses dangle around his neck.

“Come,” Caine said at last, leading the way to his apothecary, noting the way Peter kept his eyes closed.  There had been a change in his light perception recently that he had yet to discuss.  Caine had already noticed it, probed, and determined that it was not a direct threat to his health even though, indirectly, visual vertigo could have significant consequences.  At least the impact was counteracted by shutting out the light.  As soon as Peter sat, Caine went to brew tea.  From his place in the small kitchen, he could see Peter put his elbows on the table and begin to rub his eyes.  Weeks of hard-won stress relief appeared to have vanished.  His son was locked-up again.  Caine sighed and added pain relievers to the tea and then left it to steep.   Walking up behind Peter, Caine moved too quietly and Peter’s shoulders flinched when he set his hands on them.

“I am sorry. I did not mean to startle you.”

Peter sighed, pushing his fingers into his hair.

“I did not mean to be startled,” he muttered, sounding very tired.  There were times when Peter seemed both older, and younger, than his years.  How he managed both simultaneously, Caine did not know. For a moment, Caine stood still, sharing his son’s qi, mapping his physical pain, experiencing it along with him.  The headache was severe. The muscle aches, less so.  Carefully, Caine palmed Peter’s forehead.  Yes.  This had reached the level of a migraine with all its accompanying sensory overstimulation.  To have walked from the metro with this, navigating successfully, carrying on a conversation.  Peter was too strong for his own good and yet he thought himself weak. 

“Breathe in slowly, lightly,” Caine said.


            “Hush. Do not talk.  You will not be in this much pain for long.  I will deal with it.  Try to relax.  Take slow breaths.”

  Caine began to take the pain into himself, as he always did, as he always would.  He extracted it from his son’s body and accepted it as his own, grateful that he could and glad that Peter was unaware of the nature of the exchange. 


“Yes.” Peter let out a shaky breath.  “God. Pop. Thank you.”

“There is no need to thank me,” Caine said, beginning to massage Peter’s rock-hard shoulders.  “Keep trying to relax.”

“I haven’t been this tight in a while,” Peter said, sounding sleepy now that he was no longer fighting the pain. 

“What happened last night?”

“It’s a long story.  It started yesterday afternoon at the Silk Road Tea House…”

As Peter talked, Caine completed his massage and, having dealt with his son’s physical pain, began to address what was left.  Under the guise of beginning acupressure, Caine took Peter’s face in his hands. 

“I am proud of you, my son,” he said, looking down into the now-open eyes that could not see him back and yet could still contain such anguish.  As he looked he wondered, not for the first time, how a mortal man was supposed to live with having a son.  It was senseless to love anyone this much.  

“You did very well.”

“Kermit said… today…he said…”

Peter’s eyes filled with tears and so did Caine’s.

“I was a cop…That it was like being a cop.  He made it sound like…”

Peter couldn’t keep talking.  Caine watched his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed.  


Without knowing who chose to begin the embrace, they were holding onto each other and Caine heard his own breath shudder as Peter let go of a sob. 

“Hush,” he murmured, not meaning it, merely speaking, seeking to soothe.  “You did very well,” he said again “And if you were a cop, that is all right.  That is good.”

“He made it sound like it could be a new way of helping people.  Not the job, but a job.”

Caine’s hand that had been stroking his son’s hair stilled and then, slowly, resumed. Inside him, as understanding began to bloom, so did a complicated form of hope.  Such a job was, in many ways, not that different from being a Shaolin priest.  And hadn’t he once hoped for his son to follow that path?  Long ago, before the world had exploded in a ball of fire and he’d lost his most precious source of hope?

“Such a job would be…a worthy pursuit,” he managed to say, feeling Peter begin to pull away even as he, in another way, drew closer.

“Do you really think so?” Peter asked, reaching up to rub the wetness from his face.

“Yes,” Caine said gently, cupping Peter’s cheek. “Of course.”

“I barely made it through last night,” Peter said, lowering his hand to Hank’s head as the dog, sensing distress, came over to give comfort.

“It will be easier next time,” Caine said watching a series of expressions cross Peter’s face: bewilderment, doubt, longing and finally a touch of hope. 

“Next time…” he murmured.  “It wouldn’t be the same as being a cop.”

“No.  It would be harder and require more courage.”

“This job…I don’t even know what it would be called.

“The name is…irrelevant.”          

“Yeah. I guess you’re right.  It’s kinda Shaolin, though, if you think about it.  In terms of the core obligations.  To protect the weak, treat people with dignity, stand up to oppression…all that.”

“Yes,” Caine said, beginning to smile as he heard the growing conviction in Peter’s voice, the dawning sense of purpose, the strong alignment with who he’d always been and always would be. 
            “The law, knowing the law, is only part of it.  It’s about knowing the whole system, the process from beginning to end, knowing how to advocate for victims, for people who’ve been wronged, helping them get justice even if there isn’t always a conviction at the end of it.  There’s…justice, a kind of justice, in the process itself especially if you’ve got people on your side the whole time.”

“Yes,” Caine said, smiling fully now. 

“I always thought that if you took away the badge and the gun, all that would be left was…just paperwork.  I’d make an arrest and feel like that was the main part, the most important part.  Bust the bad guys, get them off the street, go after the next one.  I still wish I could do that.  I’m always going to wish that.  But…”


“But convictions can’t happen if victims don’t come forward and press charges and testify.  Underneath everything, it's the victims who matter.”

“You’re right,” Ramona said from the doorway.  Turning to look at her, Caine saw that she had tears running down her face. 

“Ramona?”  Peter turned his head toward the sound of her voice.

“I haven’t been spying on you, I swear,” She said.  “I talked to Kermit and I got your note so I came here and I—.” She broke off as Peter stood up and held his arms open for her to come to him.  She all but ran into his embrace. 

“Peter, I think it’s perfect.  I think it’s wonderful.  Whatever we call this job.  It’s what you did last night but without feeling like you're on the outside, locked out.  You’d be as much a part of the team as you wanted to be and if that got too hard, you could still take a step back.”

“There’s still a lot to think about.  A lot to figure out.”

“Yeah, but we have a starting point. A real goal, right?  Something to work toward that feels like it fits? Because it does fit, Peter.  It fits really, really well.”

“Well…it’s not intellectual property law,” Peter said, making Ramona let out a watery laugh. “I know how much you love trademarks and copyrights.”

“Not as much as I love you,” she said with quiet conviction.  “Which is a whole hell of a lot.”

“Same goes,” he said before they kissed.

Turning to look out the window at the fading light, Caine felt flooded with gratitude and a strong sense of joy but his eyes strayed upward, yet again, to the gathering clouds.  The sun was setting, a new day would soon dawn… and a storm was still coming.





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