The Sea DevilsChapter 9
by Richard Messer
The rain started coming down harder as the taxi pulled up to the side entrance of the Oriental Hotel. The driver stepped out to open the door, letting his two passengers make a mad dash for the door. Once inside the tall Eurasian lepine doe and her smaller Chinese rat companion shook the water from their raincoats and hats as they were making their way towards the stairs. They hadn’t got far when someone started calling to them.
“Miss Bannon! Oh, Miss Bannon, a moment, please!”
An Asian baboon in a grey suit and white turban came hurrying up to them. Wu Hsing Jade recognized him as one of the senior desk clerks.
“Is something wrong?” she asked while stripping water from her long ears. Ming Xue was running fingers through her black bob.
The ape stopped close to them as if what he needed to say was in strict confidence.
He wrung his long slender hands as he spoke. “Oh, Miss Jade, something dire has happened to your room!”
The other looked a bit blank at this before the gist quickly settled in. With dark eyes wide Jade stared at the fur.
“What is wrong with our room?” A quick glance to Sue showed that the rodent femme was as surprised and troubled.
The baboon licked his thick lips before continuing: “We cannot get the door open!”
The lepine blinked at this and almost burst out laughing. It was nearly nine o’clock in the evening and Jade and Sue had spent more time with Grandmother Tang then they intended. After the meeting with the wako, Wu Hsing Tang had insisted that they remain for dinner. It didn’t take much persuasion for them to stay. After dinner the musical instruments were brought out and all engaged in the pastime. All this was followed by the attack of the ninjas, the incident of Ming Xue banishing that little imp, and her helping Jade recall who was their true adversary, had made the short time with Grandmother Tang a very interesting first night back in Bangkok.
As it was getting late, the rat housekeeper brought out their clothes, now dry, and helped the two visitors in donning them. Min Xue was amazed at the repairs done to the sleeves of her coat and blouse. It was difficult to see where the cuts from the knives had been made. The younger rat woman thanked the other with a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek. This brought a tear to the older femme’s eyes as she smiled and bowed in return.
At the outer door of the shop Wu Hsing Tang bade them goodnight. “I’ve called on another of our people to help get you back to your hotel safely. Should you be attacked along the way they will deliver a good fight to them.”
In the ride back, the downpour made it difficult to see into the night. Even the streetlights were nothing more than lurid yellow glows isolated in the monsoon. Wu Hsing Jade was glad for the chance to slip the glass cover back over Sun Wukong’s Tear before leaving her grandmother’s shop. She had nearly lost it twice on the ride over, hours earlier, due to the road conditions. Ming Xue had to finally lend a hand in keeping it from being lost on the floor of the car.
“Ah, Miss Bannon?”
With a blink Jade recovered herself and where they were at.
“Oh, sorry,” she said with a weak smile. “My mind just wandered there for a moment. Especially with the attack still fresh in our minds.”
Beetling brows shot up, nearly threatening to upset the clerk’s turban. “Attack?”
“Why, yes, it was about a half hour ago as we were about to leave my grandmother’s home. Is that right, Sue?”
Ming Xue merely nodded.
Long slender hands smacked the sides of his face as the baboon looked more alarmed.
“But this is terrible! We hardly ever had a foreign visitor molested on the streets of our great city.”
With a nod of agreement, Wu Hsing Jade began making her way towards the lifts, Sue trailing behind, the clerk hastily following. The ride to their floor had the pair enduring the litany from the simian over why their room door would not open.
“When the cleaning staff came to check on your bedding and clean the bath they were startled at not being able to open the room door. They called on the maintenance staff to come and try to open it, but they couldn’t. Then we tried to find you everywhere in the hotel but there was every indication that you may have gone out by then!”
The bell sounded the arrival at the floor and the doors slid open.
“And we tried every pass key that this establishment could have in unlocking the door!” continued the baboon as they arrived at the aforementioned door. There were a couple of femmes in maid's uniforms lingering there with arms loaded with towels as well as a pair of workfurs with tool trays. It appeared that they had attempted to dismantle the lock without much success. All eyes were turned on the threesome.
With a brief sweeping gaze of the gathering, Wu Hsing Jade turned to Ming Xue with a slight smile.
< Sue, would you be so good as to open the door for them, please? >
The young gray/brown rodent femme gave a slight bow before easing her way through those gathered there. These figures stood back to give the femme a try at the door. There were a few whispered asides that she ignored. With calm assurance, Ming Xue produced her key and inserted it into the keyhole. Then with a display of having to struggle with the key she twisted and turned it, pulled and pushed it, all the while turning the knob. After several seconds of this the young rat woman made a growling noise under her breath. Wu Hsing Jade barely recognized that strange language Sue had used before. A quick glance down at the bottom of the door showed the Eurasian a brief flash of blue light. Luckily no one else had noticed.
There came another rattle of the doorknob and a final twist of the key and the door opened! A collective gasp erupted from those gathered there as the young femme pushed the door open with a smile before she proceeded to the bathroom door, slender tail held high in triumph. With a light touch to the rice paper strip and a quick word the paper quickly crumbled to dust before she unlocked this door.
Wu Hsing Jade apologized to the desk clerk for the trouble the hotel’s room door caused to the staff. The maintenance staff gathered up their tools and left, muttering under their breaths over how a single femme can accomplish what it took them considerable time to attempt. The house staff bustled in after the others to check the bedding before heading for the bath. Jade and the clerk where speaking in low tones while Sue was setting her shoulder bag on her bed, when a cry came from the bath.
Those femmes came out in a rush, eyes rolling wildly as they pointed to the bath, jabbering incoherently. Lepine and rodent rushed to look in. The window had been smashed, the floor littered with the shattered remains of glass and wood, the rain pouring in. The inside of the door showed signs of someone had attempted to break through the locked barrier.
The baboon clerk gave a wail of alarm over the destruction done to his hotel. With calm words Wu Hsing Jade managed to quiet the distraught simian. She led him from the room towards the lifts, leaving Ming Xue to usher the shaken maids downstairs via the servants’ stairway. At the front desk the clerk called upon the concierge and explained what had happened in the visiting Eurasian’s room. The English setter listened in dismay to what had occurred and left to see for himself, the simian in tow.
Jade shrugged at being left behind and made her way to the salon where she lit up one of her herbal cigarettes in the black holder. She was finishing her smoke and a cup of tea when the concierge and desk clerk hurried in to where she sat.
“I truly must apologize for the events that have occurred lately during your visit to our establishment, Miss Bannon!” The canine bowed before the lepine. “I have asked Mr. Bajeet, here, to have your luggage moved to another room for the remainder of your stay to Siam.”
The tall rabbit femme stubbed out her smoke and drained the cup before rising. She bowed in return.
“Thank you for your concern, sir. I will inform my companion to quickly assemble our belongings in preparation for our move.”
Jade bowed to the pair again and made her way across the lobby to the lift. In the car going up she began rolling her mind back to what Xin Xue had related to her during their final meeting. The panda reminded the lepine that the Japanese medical officer was indeed from the army. Could the one at the dining room earlier today been the aforementioned furson; the one with the magical powers to have sent an imp to spy on them?
A sudden stab of coldness went through her gut at this thought. If that abominable thing had been present at her grandmother’s apothecary after the attack, then it must have been hiding in the corner during the meeting with the other wako!
The Eurasian doe was out of the lift when the car doors were halfway open, startling the operator. She passed the bellhops trundling their luggage out of the room. Ming Xue was standing in the center of the room, watching the procession leave. Hers and Jade’s personal effects were set on the bed. The sound of the workfurs in the bath rolled out the door with an occasional murmur and curse over having to repair window and room this late at night, and with the rain coming in, dammit!
“We’ve been moved to the second floor toward the west side of the hotel, overlooking the river, mistress.” Sue gave a slight bow.
Jade smiled to herself. She hated having to fool her grandmother into thinking that the young rat femme was having a hard time with English. It was one of the first things that the lepine doe and her aunt discovered about Ming Xue, after her inglorious arrival to the Spontoon Islands, was her easy command of the tongue. Later they learned that Sue had a passing understand of French as well.
“Good, good,” Wu Hsing Jade said, more for the benefit of the hotel staff. Then turning her head so that her next words were directed softly to a large round rat ear: “Could that thing at Grandmother’s been capable of sending back what it saw to the summoner?”
The rodent woman turned away as if not having heard, to pick up a few things still on the bed. Jade followed. Under her breath Sue whispered, “No, that was a minor demon. It only observes and reports what it has observed to the caster.” She glanced up to the other. “We were lucky in that regard. But as it has not returned, that will arouse suspicion in its master.”
The pair left the room and proceeded down the hall, to the stairs, and to their new room. It wasn’t as spacious or luxurious as the previous abode, but it would do, as they had no idea how much longer they will be remaining in Siam. The Eurasian gave a generous tip to the house staff who smiled and bowed out with haste. Ming Xue closed the door and locked it. She then made a quick perusal of the room, speaking in that strange tongue as she scanned every square inch of the place. After several minutes the rat femme announced that the room was clean. Wu Hsing Jade nodded her thanks before standing in the center of the room and removing the glass eye cover.
With lips moving in a silent litany she slowly turned, using Sun Wukong’s Tear to study the room as well. In the Tear, Jade could see every object in the room and its particular heat signature. Everything appeared to be in the cooler ranges as was their wont. The only excessive heat came from the lamps and Sue. Nothing else was present.
“We’re safe,” the Eurasian announced, “for now.” She glanced at her companion. “Will you be warding the windows as before?”
Ming Xue shook her head. “I won’t be using the BAR seal this time. I’ve something else that will be as effective.” So saying the rat femme took her shoulder bag and sat at the desk. Once more she removed the envelope of rice paper slips, bottle of ink, and brush. In moments she had the strips prepared. The rabbit femme did a double take on them for they were covered with a strange glyph she had never seen before.
“What are those?” she asked with a frown.
The other looked up with a broad grin. “Something Master Tang taught me along with the tongue to be an effective demon hunter.”
“Demon hunter? Oh, that’s right! You did mention it at lunch,” Jade said.
Sue nodded as she arose to apply the strips to the windows of the room as well as the bath. The water closet did not have a window so one was not needed there. After cleaning and drying the brush the rodent femme returned to the desk to pack away her instruments. Then out of the bag she removed a small leather pouch and a pipe. The bowl was carved from a dark reddish wood inlayed with gold and silver glyphs, and the stem appeared to be of bamboo that was curved. Ming Xue set the pipe into the corner of her mouth, feeling the weight of it as the bowl was balanced below the level of her chin.
Wu Hsing Jade cocked an eyebrow at this; it was the one over the black pearl.
“When and where did you get that?’
Setting the pipe aside, Sue replied, “Your grandmother gave this to me just before we left her shop. She told me that this was in appreciation for being your companion on this trip, and dealing with that imp.”
The tall Eurasian nodded. It was well that Grandmother Tang bestowed this gift on the young rat woman. If Ming Xue had not come along on this trip, Jade would have been lying in some cold morgue after being cut down by their assailants in the street. Or that demonic messenger would have returned to its master with what it had learned. And the Japanese, with Siamese blessing, would have wiped out her grandmother and the entire wako faction in Bangkok, if not all of Siam.
Sue had put away the pipe and tobacco pouch back in her shoulder bag, then went to her bed to undress for the night. She stopped to stare at the bandages on her arms then pulled back the bedding and slid into bed. Jade followed suit after turning off the lights in the room. Outside the windows the wind still moaned around the corner of the hotel as the rain continued to lash at the glass. In the distance was a dim flash of lightning followed seconds later by the soft rumble of thunder. And two tired femmes settled into slumber after a stressful first day in Siam.