Crane

Page 62


“Seh,” she whispered, “LaoShu has a ring of—”

“Someone is coming,” Seh interrupted.

“What—”

The pit door suddenly flew open, crashing into Hok and Seh. Hok righted herself and turned to the doorway. In it stood the shrouded Cleaner in his stained garb.

“Close that door, trash collector!” LaoShu shouted at the man. “Or you’ll be next.”

The Cleaner didn’t budge. He removed his gloves and Hok saw that his fingernails were filed to sharp points.

LaoShu scowled and aimed his qiang at Hok.

“That idiot enjoys his job a little too much,” LaoShu said. “But I suppose there is no harm in letting him have his fun with you after I am through. No one is really quite sure what he does with all the dead bodies he takes out of here.”

LaoShu released a maniacal laugh, and Hok saw his single outstretched finger begin to tighten beneath the qiang.

Out of the corner of her eye, Hok saw the Cleaner begin to move, too. The filthy man whipped his body powerfully left and then right, like a dragon. At the same time, he reached one hand into his robe sleeve and snapped his wrist outward so fast, Hok could barely see it.

The end of an extraordinarily long chain whip lashed out, its sharp weighted tip slicing into LaoShu’s hand. LaoShu shrieked and dropped the qiang, and it hit the ground with a loud BANG!

“ARRRR!” LaoShu cried, falling over. Hok looked down and saw blood pouring from a large round hole in his ankle.

The chain whip began to circle overhead, and Seh said, “Ying! I can sense him! Where is he?”

“Over here,” the Cleaner replied. He shook his head violently and the shroud drifted off, revealing a carved dragon’s face. It was Ying, without question.

“You!” LaoShu shouted at Ying. “What are you doing back in my club?”

“I came to say goodbye,” Ying hissed. He lashed out with the chain whip a second time, and the weighted tip wrapped itself around LaoShu’s ring of keys. Ying yanked on the whip and the key ring tore free from LaoShu’s sash, into Ying’s hands. LaoShu’s robe spilled open and Hok saw that he had another qiang strapped to his scrawny chest.

“Hurry,” Ying snapped at Hok from the doorway. “Inside the tunnel. You’re coming with me.”

Hok hesitated. Follow Ying? she thought.

“Do it!” Ying said. “Before I slam this door closed on all three of you!”

Hok blinked and looked down at LaoShu. He was reaching for his second qiang.

Ying began to close the door.

“Come on,” Hok said, and shoved Seh through the doorway.


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