THE KINDNESS OF TIGERS
Transcribed by: James
In Game date: September, 2011
On a lazy Sunday morning in late September there was the hint of fall in the air. The sky was a slate gray color and the light rain that Seattle was so well known for was falling relentlessly. The Gate Bar & Grill in PIONEER SQUARE was nearly empty. SOLOMON CASTOSTRANI watched the television news from a table in the corner listening to the well coifed newsperson speak at length about tensions between the Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on Harbor Island, currently being rebuilt after the terrible events of BLACK MONDAY, and Novorossiysk Shipping Company (Novoship). Novoship was making a bid to undercut the union and there was a great deal of tension with a strike looking imminent. There were even some reports that the Russian Vori was involved and that there had been some violence on SEATTLE WATERFRONT.
Solomon’s idle attention to the TV news was interrupted by the ever enigmatic and somewhat exasperating JIAN JU-LONG. Decadence and style radiated from the Guardian of Dead, known in China as Horse-Face, as he lightly approached Solomon and offered his dark wisdom.
“The Tiger fears the human heart, The human fears the Tiger’s kindness.”
Solomon had no idea what the Zen Koan, which seemed vaguely familiar, could possibly have to do with the events of the docks. Horse-Face ignored Solomon’s puzzled expression and proceeded to delve deep into the possible meanings of the riddle. He pointed out that Tigers had far more to fear from Humans than the other way around. More Humans had slain Tigers over time than Tigers had slain Humans. So why would Humans possibly fear a Tiger’s kindness?
As he began speculating on the kindness of Tigers he was interrupted by FAN GANG, better known as Ox-Head. The gruff man was so large and powerful a presence that he seemingly filled the entire bar. He demanded that Jian Ju-Long be silent!
“You have said too much!” he bellowed gruffly.
“And yet I have said nothing,” the more elegant of the guardian’s said with a sniff.
The news had continued on to a story about a recent theft of some priceless Chinese artifacts from a warehouse on the Seattle Waterfront. The pieces were destined to be shown at the Asian Art Museum on CAPITOL HILL. The news anchor pointed out that so far there seemed to be no connections between the theft and the tensions on the docks. There were reports that an arrest had been made.
Horse-Face got Solomon’s attention again and in an uncharacteristically frank manner told him that he should investigate the story. A person he cared about was involved. Solomon’s heart went cold as he remembered that LISA SHAN, whom he was sworn to protect, had just started working at that museum as the Chief Archivist.
With the Sabbath over DAVID CLAY, fulfilling his role as an attorney, was in his office on Capitol Hill filing some paperwork while his young teen-aged intern and contracted investigator, CHARLES SAMUEL KRESS helped. The two of them were deeply involved in their work when they were interrupted by the sound of the bell on the door. A primly dressed young woman entered the cramped office.
She introduced herself as Lisa Shan and explained that her previous attorney, RONALD PARKER Esq. IV had left town but had recommended David if she ever needed legal help. And she needed that help now. She related that she had just started working at the Asian Art Museum and that she was being accused of stealing a shipment of Chinese artifacts.
The investigation, lead by CHIEF FRANK PIPER who seemed determined to prove she was behind the robbery, had found her fingerprints on the broken shipping crate. If that evidence wasn’t damming enough the police had found almost all of the artifacts in her storage facility because of an anonymous tip. The lawyer asked what was still missing and she revealed that the Hu Yao scroll, an exquisite piece was the sole artifact that was had not been found.
David Clay, despite being a golem, considered himself a fair judge of character, and he believed the young lady to be earnest. But Charlie had a very different opinion. He was instantly suspicious and felt she was hiding something. His suspicion only increased when Lisa nervously revealed that three longshoremen had gone missing from the docks the night of the robbery.
David agreed to represent Lisa despite learning that she had no real alibi. She claimed she had been home alone with her infant son the night of the robbery and had no witnesses to corroborate that fact. But David knew more about Lisa than she realized. He knew that his friend, Solomon, was dedicated to the young lady because of a binding oath to protect her family line. And he felt it was only right that he do his part to aid his friend in fulfilling that oath.
Lisa was very grateful to David and left the lawyer’s office to get home to her young son. Or so she said. Young Charlie, whose experiences on the street made it hard for him to trust anyone, decided he couldn’t just accept her at face value. He grabbed his motorcycle helmet planning on following her to see what she was up to. Before he could make up an excuse and tail her David ordered him to follow up on Lisa’s story and go to the warehouse on the dock where the crime happened and see what he could find. Charlie said he was going for lunch first but he would head to the docks immediately afterwards. Luckily for him Lisa lived in THE INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT and that was on his way to the Waterfront so it shouldn’t cost him too much time.
He followed Lisa riding his ancient moped doing his best to remain unnoticed. Lisa seemed completely unaware of Charlie’s surveillance, despite clearly being nervous and looking for a tail which made the young man even more suspicious. No one could be that oblivious could they? After a block or two he realized that he wasn’t the only one following Mrs. Shan. A very, very large and intimidating man on a Harley was stalking her too. Charlie became aware that the man had noticed him and was watching him closely. Probably trying to determine if the teen wizard was also shadowing Lisa. Realizing that caution was merited Charlie abandoned his pursuit and headed toward the docks hopefully allaying the suspicions of the massive biker.
Solomon arrived at the Asian Art Museum and was greeted by the Deputy Director who was quite delighted to see him. He had placed himself in position as one of the biggest donors for the museum in order to expedite his guardianship of Lisa Shan and her family. That foresight was paying dividends now. He interviewed the Director at length about the theft.
The Director explained that they had been able to recover all the pieces except the Hu Yao scroll. Mention of the scroll sparked some recognition in Solomon’s mind and he asked the Director what he knew about it. The Director, enjoying himself, lectured about the scroll saying it was an exquisite Chinese painting of a Hu Yao, the Spirit Tiger, with a famous zen koan on it:
“The Tiger fears the human heart, The human fears the Tiger’s kindness.”
Solomon realized that Horse-Face had been trying to help him that morning in his own enigmatic way and he nodded his head in gratitude.
According to legend, the director continued, the wielder of the scroll could control the noble spirit of the tiger and it would be compelled to do his bidding. Although wielding the scroll in an unscrupulous manner was a dangerous proposition though. Hu Yao was an honorable creature and he would avenge any dishonorable deeds he was compelled to commit by the wielder of the scroll if he got the chance.
Solomon promised the man that Lisa was innocent of the crime no matter how incriminating the evidence was. The Director assured him that if Mrs. Shan was proven innocent then there would be no repercussions for her at the museum. Solomon seemed satisfied by that answer and decided that his next move was to find Lisa some proper representation. So he got into his unassuming Fiat and drove to his friend David’s office on Capitol Hill.
Wearing the hat of a delivery boy from a local eatery and carrying a bag of food from there that he intended to eat later Charlie looked every inch like a delivery boy on his moped. He was able to make it to warehouse row right on Harbor Island without anyone becoming suspicious. There was a great deal of construction after the earthquakes and tsunami of Black Monday had devastated the region. The warehouse he was interested in was old, but sturdy, and had weathered the destruction intact. Two police cruisers were parked in front of the warehouse and officers milled about the crime scene. Doing his best to remain inconspicuous Charlie circled the perimeter of the building looking for clues. What he discovered was really quite odd.
He noticed that in the back of the warehouse lot the wooden perimeter fence had been ripped and torn by some…thing. The wood look chewed and shredded as if by some massive dog. In fact, it was rather disconcerting, he found the paw print of the biggest damn dog he could ever imagine just inside the hole in the fence. Even more puzzling the print was among some other human prints from someone who was…barefoot? Going without shoes in an industrial area like the busy docks made no sense at all. But Charlie dutifully snapped photos of the odd evidence with his old, wind up film camera. He also took note of the video cameras on the Local 19 Union building across the alley. Cameras that would very likely have a clear view of whatever had made that hole in the fence. That was when the youth noted a commotion going on further down the block as new police cruisers and a crowd started forming around what looked like an abandoned building.
Solomon met David at the law office and pleaded with his friend to prove Lisa’s innocence. The lawyer assured him that he had already agreed to represent her and Solomon was relieved. David was one of the few beings on the planet that he trusted. The golem had made the legal arrangements to Solomon’s estate that would ensure Lisa and her progeny were taken care of should anything ever happen to him. So the lawyer knew how important the young woman was to him.
They compared notes and concluded that their next move was to investigate the crime scene. But first Solomon wanted to talk to a contact of his on the Seattle PD to see if he could learn anything more about this Chief Piper that was the lead investigator on the case. He reached out on his cell phone to DETECTIVE SAM VOLKOV. Solomon had met the detective through JACK YOUNGBLOOD and knew he was clued in. He believed the officer to be honest because Sam had saved Jack’s life and defeated the UN-MAN. No mean feat.
Volkov picked up on the third ring sounding harried. He had just been assigned a triple homicide on the Waterfront. When Solomon explained that he was investigating the theft from the docks the detective asked him if he thought it was connected to the murders. Solomon told him that he feared that they had to be related. Volkov told Solomon that if he came down to Harbor Island he wanted to hear whatever information he had. Just text him when he got there and he would speak to him directly.
Solomon and David got up to go to the scene when the bell on the front door rang again. Two very large men in track suits muscled a wheel chair with a shriveled husk of a man into the cramped office. Strangely David and Solomon could not take their eyes off of the man in the wheelchair. He was rail thin and looked sickly and physically unimposing yet his presence in the room was a cold implacable thing. They were like mice facing a hungry snake. When he spoke with his thick Russian accent they could tell that he was accustomed to giving orders. Orders that most had the good sense to follow lest they suffer terrible consequence. Apparently he was in the office to give more orders. To David.
He introduced himself as Mr. Sokolov and said that he was an entrepreneur looking after his investments. He suggested the attorney drop Lisa Shan as a client. Immediately. It might be unfortunate if he didn’t. As he said this the temperature in the room dropped precipitously and both Solomon and David felt a dark power pushing at their psyches. Heightening their anxiety. Causing unease. Solomon had learned to face such powers over the centuries with discipline and resisted the Russian’s power with effort. David, despite being a magically animated clay construct, experienced something he had rarely felt in the many years since he had been created. Fear. It left him somewhat shaken and rooted in place unable to speak. The Russian, satisfied that he had gotten his point across left the building.
Charlie had remained in the background as much as possible hiding among the other rubberneckers who had surrounded the murder scene. The police presence had increased as CSI and the coroner arrived. Local news reporters with their camera crews had begun showing up as well with anchors doing their best to glean the latest morsel of information they could get from the police. There was even a news helicopter overhead.
The young wizard had witnessed the remains of 3 different individuals placed into body bags and he nearly lost his lunch at the sight of their bloody ruined bodies. He was reminded of the scene in that shark movie, Jaws he thought it was called, where they were doing the autopsy. The remains of a grown woman fit into a small bin. What they were scooping into the body bags could not have been much larger. He tried to move around the perimeter of the crime scene to see if he could get a better idea of what was going on but the police were everywhere. Deciding he couldn’t learn anything more he got back on his moped and started back to the office. He was pulling out of warehouse row when he was nearly struck by an oncoming Fiat. He caught his breath and realized that David and Solomon were in the car.
Charlie explained what he had discovered at the warehouse fence and about the possibility of the cameras recording the crime. David suggested they investigate the Local 19 Union building video cameras while Solomon met with the detective. Solomon sent a text to the officer and prepared to wait for him on the perimeter of the crime scene.
The building was a bustling hive of activity with children and adults running to and fro as the logistics of a possible strike were being dealt with by the industrious members of the Local 19 Longshoremen’s Union. Clay was impressed as he realized that despite the evident chaos one man directed the whole operation with the grace of a symphony conductor. The attorney waited patiently until there was an opening and stepped forward to introduce himself.
VIC KOLWALSKI was the Union Boss and when he learned that David was investigating the theft on the docks he led the two visitors to his office while bellowing for his assistant, Doris to take over. An older woman with a New York accent bellowed back at the union boss trading loving insults with him while complaining loudly about how she already had too much to do. Vic rebutted loudly waving his arms in exasperation while David and Charlie exchanged a knowing look at the obvious delight both of them took in the argument and followed Vic to a small office that was overflowing with paperwork.
He explained that young Charlie had noted the video cameras of the Union house and that they may have recorded evidence that could help them exonerate Lisa Shan and maybe even discover who had murdered the three men. Vic put names to the three corpses CLYDE ORTIZ, RON PORTER and NEIL THORNTON. All loyal members of the Union. Part of the family. The gray haired man looked down pain etched into his features and for the first time David realized how old he really was.
Vic looked up having obviously made the decision to help them and pecked ineffectually at his laptop for a few minutes before screaming for Doris again. A moment later she burst into the room indignantly. When he explained that the computer was broken and that he couldn’t access the server with the video surveillance Doris barked at him to get out of the way and go talk to Mrs. Jones about securing permits for the strike. She would deal with this. Charlie, realizing his wizardly nature might interfere with the computer, excused himself and set off to join Solomon.
Doris turned out to be extremely proficient with the computer and in short order David found video of the night of the break in. What he discovered was quite perplexing though. He witnessed a very, very large dog or wolf, it was hard to say for sure which because the video quality was inexplicably grainy and cut in and out, dig and tear at the fence prying off the slat with its enormous jaws. After making a hole in the fence it picked up a large bag in its jaws and entered the warehouse. Minutes later a large masked man in dark clothes carrying what looked like the same bag jumped the fence and got on a massive motorcycle and drove away. The bag looked much more full than it had when the wolf had brought it in.
On a hunch David asked Doris, who he had bonded with once he revealed that he was from New York City, to look over the videos from previous nights. They never got a good look at him or his license plate unfortunately but they discovered the same biker on multiple nights casing the warehouse. Doris happily gave the lawyer a couple of thumb drives with copies of the video. He was very excited. He may have just found the evidence he needed to prove his client’s innocence.
Solomon awaited the detective on the perimeter of the crime tape as technicians and police dug deeply into the crime scene. When Charlie came upon him he suggested the young man see if he could get more information from the scene using his magical talents. Charlie said he would see what he could do and set off to find a way to sneak into the abandoned warehouse. Solomon in the meantime tried to use his own mystic connection to the spirits of the dead to find clues.
Unfortunately, Harbor Island had suffered greatly during Black Monday and he was nearly overwhelmed by the wandering spirits from that terrible tragedy. What was most disturbing were the spirits that spoke of monsters coming from the sea but unfortunately those spirits were so far gone that he could learn little about what they were talking about.
Detective Volkov, finally getting a moment from dealing with the investigation into the murders, interrupted Solomon’s communion with the local dead. Solomon explained that he was working as an investigator for David Clay who was representing Mrs. Shan. He explained that he felt like Chief Piper was not being honest in his investigation and wondered if it was all a frame job. He wanted to know what Volkov knew about the man.
The detective related that back when he had been working for the Russian mob, before cleaning up his own act, he knew that Piper had been involved in smuggling, human trafficking and drug running. The Chief of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency was in a unique position to help with those kinds of activities.
But that all changed after the events of Black Monday. There were many on the Waterfront who thought him a hero because when the tsunamis hit Harbor Island on that terrible day he had led rescue efforts saving hundreds of lives. Since then the man appeared to have cleaned up his act. He had had several major busts on the waterfront and was behind investigations that protected the workers from being exploited by corporations that were rebuilding after the disaster. There was even a rumor that there was a price on the man’s head after his turnaround. As someone with his own dark past to make up for, Volkov seemed to think well of the Chief.
Solomon thanked him for the information and told the detective about everything they had discovered in investigating the robbery so far. Including about the security videos from the Union building. The detective promised Solomon he would look into the theft as part of his investigation and if he came across something that could help he would be in touch.
While speaking to the detective Solomon noted a spirit that looked like it had been torn apart by an animal that was wandering in a daze. After the officer left he spoke to the spirit, who said his name was CLYDE ORTIZ, learning that he was one of the three missing longshoremen. Solomon gently questioned the clearly traumatized spirit but learned little. Ortiz did not see his assailant before being ripped to shreds. He only remembered the terrible roar and the horrific pain and blood that followed.
Solomon realized he had a duty to escort the spirit of the slain man to his reward. After calling David on his phone and letting him know he was going to be at the Gate, he coaxed Ortiz to follow him and left the Waterfront.
Charlie had been more successful in infiltrating the crime scene that he dared hoped. He had used his magic to summon a concealing fog that helped him sneak into the building in the fading light of sunset. From there he had made his way to an isolated corner of the warehouse hiding from the police who where in the other part of the building. He then used his control of air magic to funnel the sounds in the warehouse all the way over to him, in effect creating a shotgun mic effect. He listened to the various cops and technicians as they continued their work and after a time came across a conversation the coroner was having with a fellow forensics tech. The coroner explained that he had never seen anything like this outside of his homeland of India. Tigers were the only creature he could imagine that could rend a human body to pieces like that and devour so much of the remains. Charlie listened for a while longer but decided he had learned everything he was going to at this point and sneaked out to join David who was waiting on the perimeter.
After some conversation the two of them decided to investigate Lisa Shan’s storage facility where the stolen property had been found. They were an odd sight both loaded up on Charlie’s moped. Unfortunately, they had little luck. The police had already been there and had put their own lock on her unit with police tape criss crossing the door. Not wanting to break into the facility with the security cameras watching the two of them decided that they had done everything they could for the day. They would pick up the investigation tomorrow. The got back on Charlie’s moped and very slowly made their way back to David’s office.