Category: Kung Fu–the Legend Continues
Word Count: 8800
Peter Caine drove as fast as he could. He was meeting Donnie Double-D, trying to get a line on a series of drive-by shootings in Chinatown. He shrugged his shoulders, attempting to ease a tension that had dogged him for the past few hours. He felt unaccountably anxious, but he couldn’t figure out the reason for his uneasiness. He turned on the radio, hoping it would distract him.
“We interrupt this program to take you to our sister TV station channel 3, for a breaking news story,” the announcer intoned.
“This is Sandra Mason, at County Hospital for Channel 3 Action News. There has been another drive-by shooting in Chinatown. This time the victims are two of the leading citizens of the Community, Lo Si, also known as ‘The Ancient,’ and another Shaolin priest, Kwai Chang Caine. The hospital has not announced their condition.” A commotion could be heard in the background, then Sandra Mason said, “I have been informed that next of kin have not been notified. The station regrets…”
Peter turned off the radio. The Stealth stopped short and was headed in the opposite direction in a matter of seconds.
“Baker 1-9,” the police radio crackled.
“I’m on my way to County Hospital,” Peter growled into the radio, not bothering being polite or following procedure. He put the siren on top of the Stealth, and sped through the heavy traffic.
At the hospital, he parked illegally by the Emergency Room and ran through the door. Sandra Mason blocked his way. “Peter. I’m sorry. I didn’t know you hadn’t been told. . .” The detective pushed past her without responding. She called after him, “I hope he’s okay!”
“I’m Peter Caine. My father, Kwai Chang Caine, was brought in earlier.” Peter waited impatiently while a harried clerk searched through a stack of papers. She looked up, shaking her head. The detective stiffened, but a reassuring voice called from across the ER.
“He’s in here, Peter,” Dr. Sabourin called, beckoning to him from one of the ER treatment rooms.
Kwai Chang Caine was lying on a gurney, allowing a young nurse to button his shirt. A large white bandage covered his left shoulder. His left sleeve was empty; the nurse pulled the shirt over the bandage that immobilized his arm against his body and completed buttoning it. When Peter moved anxiously to stand next to him, the Shaolin looked at his son, reassuring the detective with a slow wink. “I am all right, My Son,” he said softly, although, in addition to the bandage, his forehead was slashed by a deep gash and a large bruise covered his temple. He smiled his thanks to the nurse.
Peter looked at Dr. Sabourin, who shook her head. “He has a gunshot wound in his shoulder. The bullet passed through, but he’s lost a lot of blood. He, also, has a concussion. He was unconscious when the paramedics brought him in. He just came to a few minutes ago. I didn’t even know he was here until I saw Lo Si, and they said an unidentified man who was with him was unconscious in the ER. Somehow, I knew it was Caine,” the doctor explained.
“Aren’t you going to admit him?” Peter asked anxiously.
“I do not wish to be admitted,” Caine spoke up firmly.
“He can go home,” Dr. Sabourin said, wearily, obviously frustrated by a fruitless argument with her obstinate patient. “If he’ll rest, he should be fine. But I don’t want him to be alone. He should have bed rest for at least the next 24 hours, and someone has to watch him to make sure there aren’t any complications from the concussion, and make sure he doesn’t reopen that wound.”
The doctor and Peter continued to talk quietly, turning away from the man who was now sitting on the gurney. The young nurse was tidying the area, gathering bloody rags for disposal and picking up instruments for cleaning. She turned around and cried, “Doctor! He’s gone!”
Peter looked at the spot where his father had been sitting, and sighed. He looked at Dr. Sabourin and asked urgently, “Where’s Lo Si?”
“He’s in ICU.”
Peter was gone before the words were completely said. As he expected, he found his father standing in the Ancient’s cubicle, gently stroking his friend’s forehead. The old priest was unconscious; he looked pale and shrunken in the ICU bed.
“Come on, Pop,” Peter pleaded. “Let me take you home.”
Caine shook his head. “I will stay,” he told his worried offspring determinedly.
Xiaoli, the old man’s niece, looked at Peter’s concerned expression and smiled faintly; she recognized the frustration brought on by trying to deal with a stubborn Shaolin priest.
“Master Caine,” she said softly. She went to his uninjured side and wrapped her arm around his waist. He put his arm on her shoulder. “Please go home,” she requested. “He will sleep tonight, and I’ll be here for him.” She smiled up at Caine’s exhausted features. “I will need your help with him later, when he feels better. You know how stubborn he is.”
Peter hid a smile behind his hand, at the same time trying to formulate a “plan B” if Xiaoli’s strategy failed. He was figuring the odds of being able to sneak up on his father with a syringe of a tranquilizer when the younger priest finally spoke.
“You are sure he will not need me?” Caine asked slowly. He took his arm from Xiaoli and put a gentle hand on his unconscious friend’s shoulder.
“We’ll be fine, Master Caine,” she promised. She stood on tiptoe and kissed his jaw. “Please, go home.”
The younger Shaolin nodded reluctantly, and to Peter’s surprise and concern, held his hand out to his son. The policeman took the older man’s arm and walked out with him, supporting him on his uninjured side. At the door, Peter turned and mouthed “Thank you,” to the young woman. She smiled and bowed, then turned back to her uncle.
“Caine! Wait!” Peter frowned as he and his father walked out of the stairwell. He turned, waiting for Frank Strenlich to catch up to them. Caine swayed, and Peter felt a tremor flow through his father’s body.
“Captain Simms has to talk to your Dad,” Strenlich explained to Peter.
The Captain walked up behind her Chief of Detectives. “I have to ask you some questions, Mr. Caine.” The Captain noted the priest’s pallor and Peter’s thunderous look and said, “I’m sorry. We have to do this. I’ll make it as quick as I can. We’re very short handed at the precinct because of the flu. This will be the best chance I have to talk to your father,” she explained to her frowning detective.
Caine nodded, and he and Peter followed her into an empty office. Peter settled his father in a chair by the desk, then leaned against the wall with his arms folded. Caine looked at her in puzzlement. “I am sorry, have we met?” he asked softly.
“The doctor said he might be a little confused because of the concussion,” Peter explained, when she looked at him with a question in her eyes.
Captain Simms pulled a chair up next to Caine said, “I’m Karen Simms. I’m with the police,” she explained. Your son works for me. Can you tell me what happened?”
The injured man drew a deep breath. He looked around. “My son? He is here?”
“I’m right here, Dad,” Peter assured him. The priest turned, and smiled at the young detective, as if seeing him for the first time.
“Please tell me what you remember,” the Captain urged.
“Remember?” Caine closed his eyes, his face straining with his effort. “I… I do not know what you mean,” he said finally, his voice weak and thready.
Karen looked at Peter helplessly. “The doctor says he probably has some memory loss. It should come back, but he was out for several hours. It may take time for him to remember,” the younger Caine told her.
“I need to know what happened in Chinatown today, Mr. Caine. What happened when you and your friend were injured?” The Captain spoke slowly and distinctly.
“Lo Si and I were walking. . . a car pulled up beside us. I saw a gun . . . I tried . . . I tried . . . to . . .” Caine’s voice faltered for a moment, and the Captain took his hand. “I tried to protect him, but the bullet went through my body, and into his,” he said sorrowfully.
“There’s no need to blame yourself, Mr. Caine,” she told him gently. “Witnesses said you did everything you could.”
He started to shrug, but stopped in mid-movement when pain reminded him that he was injured.
“Did you see the car, or the people in it?” she asked encouragingly. She hoped that Peter had inherited his observation skills from his father.
The Shaolin closed his eyes, visualizing again the street . . . the scene. He was walking with his friend. Lo Si was teasing him about Mary Margaret Skalany. . . A car pulled up beside them. . . He felt again a searing pain in his shoulder, and then blinding pain and blackness when he hit his head. “Lo Si? Is Lo Si all right?” He asked anxiously, opening his eyes and looking at the young detective.
“He’s in Intensive Care, Dad,” Peter reminded him.
“I must see him,” Caine responded, trying to stand.
Peter moved away from the wall, and put his hand on Caine’s uninjured shoulder. “He’s being taken care of, Pop. You already saw him. Xiaoli is taking care of him. Remember?” He said gently. “You told her you’d go home, so you can take care of him later,” the young man reminded him.
Caine searched Peter’s face for a moment, then tilted his head and tried to shrug again. “I remember,” he said faintly.
“Please, Mr. Caine. Do you remember anything else?” Karen was desperate. It was obvious that Caine was not going to last much longer, and she needed this information.
Again, the priest closed his eyes, straining. Finally, he opened his eyes and shook his head. “The memories are there, but they are lost in a fog. I cannot reach them,” he explained slowly. “I am sorry,” he told the policewoman, seeing the disappointment in her eyes.
Captain Simms finally said, “Thank you, Mr. Caine. You can go home, now.” She turned to Peter. “If he remembers anything, you will let me know immediately. Understood?”
The detective nodded, watching his father.
The priest’s features were drawn with fatigue and pain. Dr. Sabourin couldn’t give him a painkiller because of the head injury (and she knew he’d have refused anyway). His face was gray, and there were dark smudges under his eyes. From experience with his own concussions, Peter knew that his father probably had a hell of a headache, in addition to dizziness and nausea. And he’s had enough extraneous holes in his own body to know what kind of pain the Shaolin was enduring.
“I’ll get the car, Pop. You stay here until I come back.”
“No,” argued the priest, shaking his head. “I will go with you.” But when he tried to stand, his knees refused to cooperate, and he sat down abruptly.
“Go get the car, Peter,” Karen Simms ordered. “I’ll stay with your father until you bring it around.”
Peter left reluctantly.
Caine looked expectantly at Karen who smiled, and asked, “Are you going to follow the doctor’s orders?”
The Shaolin smiled faintly, and nodded. “I will try,” he promised
At last, Peter was able to take his father home. The priest walked up the four flights of the fire escape stairs on his own, but it was very slow going. At the top of the stairs, Peter took his father’s good arm and walked him to his sleeping platform.
The priest shook his head, once, and told his son, “I must prepare herbs.”
Peter started to protest, but the shadow of pain in his father’s eyes stopped him. “I’ll help you, Pop,” the younger man said firmly.
“Thank you.” The injured man leaned on Peter as they made their way to shelves of herbs Caine used in his apothecary work. The herbalist chose several jars and put some of their contents into a bowl. Peter ground the herbs, following his father’s exacting directions, using his father’s mortar and pestle. Several times during the procedure, Caine stopped, as if he wasn’t sure what to do next. But then, his eyes would clear, and he explained the next step to his son.
When the mixture was finished, while the detective made a tea of the herbs, Caine tried to get ready for sleep. But, fatigued and weak as he was, unbuttoning his shirt proved to be beyond him, and Peter found him sitting on his platform, his head bowed. He looked up when Peter approached, his eyes clouded with pain and confusion.
“Come on, Dad, let’s get you settled,” Peter said gently. He found fresh silks, and helped his father change clothes.
“Okay, Pop, here’s your tea.” Peter handed his father the cup. “Drink it down, and go to sleep.”
Caine sat on the platform and drank the tea. His eyes cleared and he looked up at Peter, and whispered, “I will find someone to stay with me, tomorrow, so you can return to work. . .”
Stung by his father’s words, Peter turned away and said angrily, “All right, if that’s what you want.” Under his breath, he added, “Why not me?”
“Nothing, Dad,” the detective told him harshly.
“What did you say, My Son?” the priest persisted softly.
Hurt and angry, Peter faced his father and repeated, “Why not me? Why can you let everybody but me help you? What’s wrong with me?”
“The father protects the son,” Caine murmured.
“Not all the time, Dad. Sometimes, the son will protect the father, like now. I just want to help.” Peter ran his fingers through his hair, his frustration evident.
Caine held out his hand, and Peter took it, grudgingly allowing his father to pull him to sit on the platform. He helped his father lie down, surprised and not a little pleased when the injured man settled himself with his head in his son’s lap.
Still holding Peter’s hand, Caine whispered, “I am sorry if my words hurt you, My Son.”
Peter was combing his fingers through the priest’s fine, silky hair, but his eyes didn’t leave the Shaolin’s face. “I am honored that you wish to care for me,” Caine continued wearily. “I. . . merely wished to allow you to go to work. Did not Captain Simms says you are . . . short-handed? It is important that you be there. . .”
Peter stopped his combing motion, and put his hand against Caine’s jaw, cupping it gently. “There’s nothing, or no one, as important to me as you are, Father. . .”
Surprise momentarily flashed across the ashen features, and the Shaolin raised an eyebrow. “But, you are a cop, that is what you are. . ., what you do,” he protested softly.
Peter shook his head. “I’m a son first.” His voice broke, but he took a deep breath and continued, “Please, let me help you, Dad.”
“You are helping, Peter. You are taking good care of me,” Caine murmured, at last giving in to his fatigue and closing his eyes.
Peter held the injured man’s hand, while he stroked the priest’s face with his other hand, smoothing the lines of pain and exhaustion with feather light strokes. He thought his father was asleep, but the priest’s eyes opened and he said softly, “Peter?”
“Now what?” Peter asked, exasperated once again.
“Thank you,” the Shaolin said, his voice almost inaudible. He sighed, and closed his eyes, finally relaxing toward sleep.
Peter kissed his beloved father’s forehead, and whispered, “You’re welcome, Pop.” He grinned at his father’s sleepy frown, and continued to soothe him until long after the priest had drifted into a peaceful sleep. Finally, he pulled the blanket up to the sleeping man’s chin and settled down on a futon.
Dr. Sabourin had told Peter that he should awaken Caine during the night, to make sure that he could be awakened. The detective set the alarm on his watch to wake himself in two hours, but the alarm hadn’t gone off when he was roused by soft cries from Caine. Struggling to wake up, Peter made his way to the platform where the Shaolin lay, and tried to still his agitated movements.
Sh! Dad. It’s all right. I’m here, I’ll take care of you. Sh! The soothing words finally penetrated Caine’s nightmare, and he opened glazed, terror stricken eyes to look at his son. “Lo Si, must help him . . . He is hurt. I could not save him. . .” Tears filled his eyes, and he reached out desperately to his son.
“Sh! It’s not your fault, Pop.” Peter spoke reassuringly, softly, while he held his father’s free hand in his. “Lo Si is all right. You have to rest, Dad. We’ll see him tomorrow, I promise.”
“Tomorrow?” Caine asked softly, already falling back into sleep. “See Lo Si tomorrow,” he repeated.
“Yeah, we’ll see him tomorrow. But you have to rest.”
“Need to rest. . .” the injured man agreed. He seemed to fall asleep, but as Peter turned away, Caine’s eyes flew open, and he asked desperately, “Where is my son? I cannot find him. I tried to save him, but I could not. . .” The self-reproach in his voice made Peter wince. “Do you know where my son is?” Caine asked anxiously.
“Your son is fine. I’m right here, Dad. It’s okay. We’re together. All you need to do is rest, okay?”
Caine’s eyes cleared, and lit up with recognition. “Peter,” he breathed. “You are all right, My Son?”
“I’m fine, Dad. Please, go to sleep.”
“Goodnight,” the priest said softly, drifting back to sleep, still holding his child’s hand.
Twice more during the night, Peter’s alarm went off and he gently woke the Shaolin. Caine obediently told his son his own name, Peter’s name and the correct date. Peter considered asking him if he knew who the President of the United States was. But he didn’t press his luck. Caine didn’t seem interested in who was President when he wasn’t injured.
The next morning, the detective showered and changed into a clean set of clothes he had left at his father’s. He didn’t stay at Caine’s apartment often, but there were times when spur of the moment stays were necessary. However, if he were going to stay for a few days, he needed to get more clean clothes and toiletries from his apartment.
After his shower, Peter found the Shaolin in the kitchen, preparing breakfast. “Dad, you’re supposed to be resting.”
“I am all right, My Son,” he said firmly, although his face was still pale and drawn and he moved more slowly than usual.
“At least let me help,” Peter offered, setting the table, and bringing out the rice his father had fixed for himself, and a bowl of the cereal the Shaolin kept for Peter. Caine followed with a cup of milk. “Sit down, Pop. I’ll get the tea.”
Caine sat down, resting his head on his hand for a moment, and sighing deeply. He looked up when the detective sat down across from him and smiled, “Thank you.”
They ate in silence for a few minutes, then Peter said, “Is there anything you need, Dad?”
The priest considered the bite of rice on his chopsticks and said, “I would like to get clean, but my bandage will get wet.”
Peter grinned. At last, something he knew how to do. “No problem, Pop. I’ve given myself enough sponge baths to be able to help you out.”
So after breakfast, Peter sat his father down on the platform and gathered together the basin and other items he needed. Giving a sponge bath to someone else wasn’t quite like bathing himself to keep a dressing from getting wet, but with Caine’s cooperation, it wasn’t too bad. The priest’s gratitude at being able to get clean made it all worth while for the policeman. In an amazingly short time, the injured man was seated on his platform wearing clean silks and smiling at his son.
“I need to go by the precinct, and I’ll stop by my apartment to get a few things, Dad.”
“All right.” A worried look flashed across his father’s face, and the Shaolin asked, carefully, “You will not be gone long?”
“I’ll come right back, Dad.” He put his hand over Caine’s. “Why, what’s wrong?”
The injured man shook his head, once. His eyes were shadowed with confusion. “It is nothing, I . . . I just . . . I would miss you,” he said uncertainly.
“While I’m gone, I want you to rest, okay?” Peter requested. “You still look wiped out, and Dr. Sabourin said you should stay in bed.”
“I am . . . a little tired,” Caine admitted.
The statement scared Peter more than anything he could ever remember his father saying. He had never heard Kwai Chang voluntarily admit to any physical problem or weakness. “Okay,” he said briskly, trying to mask his own concern. “You go ahead and lay down, and I’ll clean up the kitchen before I go.”
By the time the detective cleaned up the small kitchen, his father was asleep. Peter kissed his forehead, and whispered, “I’ll be right back, Dad.”
The young policeman was nagged by a sense of foreboding on the trip to the precinct. His father would be all right, he kept telling himself reassuringly. He tried to shake it off, but it persisted. He stopped at the precinct, checking to see if anything new had come up on the investigation.
Suddenly, the foreboding blossomed into full blown fear. He dropped the file he was reading, holding his head. He closed his eyes, but could not blot out the vision he saw: a man in a white coat was pressing a pillow to the Ancient’s face. The old man was struggling weakly, but the man pressed harder and Lo Si was still. An arm reached out, pulling the assailant by the shoulder. The man turned, his face hidden from Peter’s view, and kicked Kwai Chang Caine in his injured shoulder. The younger priest went white, staggering back from the blow. The man moved in, intending to take advantage of Caine’s injury. . .
Peter ran out of the detective’s room yelling, “Broderick.” as he passed the desk. “Send backup to County hospital. One of the patients in ICU is being attacked,” he said tensely.
“How do you know?” Broderick asked.
“Just send the backup, Broderick,” Peter told the desk sergeant abruptly.
Peter was in his car in seconds, speeding toward the hospital at a breakneck pace, siren blaring. Again, the detective parked illegally, and ran into the hospital. He took the stairs two at a time, and ran to ICU, in spite of several attempts to stop him. He stopped short in the doorway of Lo Si’s cubicle.
Kwai Chang Caine was leaning heavily on the Ancient’s niece, while Dr. Sabourin looked at the spreading red stain on his bandage. Peter went to his father, taking the injured man’s weight from Xiaoli and holding him up.
“Is Lo Si . . .?” Peter asked anxiously.
“I am fine, Peter,” the old man said weakly. “Thanks to your father.”
Caine bowed his head.
“He’s not fine,” Dr. Sabourin objected, “but he’s going to be, if he rests, and doesn’t have any more excitement.” She looked at her other patient in exasperation. “Your father doesn’t need excitement either,” she said. “Bring him down to the Emergency Room. I need to change his bandage. I’ll call for a gurney.”
“I must stay here,” Caine protested weakly. “And, I do not wish a gurney.”
“It’s okay, Pop. Backup is on its way. Lo Si will be guarded,” Peter assured him, trying to guide his obstinate parent toward the door.
“I will stay until backup gets here,” the elder Caine protested stubbornly.
Peter opened his mouth to argue, but he didn’t have to. Captain Simms, followed by Frank Strenlich and Jody Powell, came into the cubicle.
“Stay here with the Ancient,” Peter told them abruptly. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He secured his hold on his father, and started walking him out of the room. “Lo Si’s safe, Pop. You gotta get that shoulder taken care of.”
Caine resisted for a moment, then nodded and moved slowly out the door, leaning heavily on his son. When they finally reached the ER, he lay down on the gurney and closed his eyes.
“It’ll be awhile, Peter. I want to examine him, and clean his wound before I put on a fresh bandage. Then, he needs to rest here for awhile before you take him home,” Dr. Sabourin said, moving around the examining room, gathering the supplies she needed.
“Okay,” Peter agreed. Reluctant to leave his father, he requested, “Call me if you need me. I’ll be in ICU.” He brushed his fingertips lightly across Caine’s forehead, and was gone.
Upstairs, Jody was taking statements from Lo Si and his niece while the Captain was on the phone, arranging for “uniforms” to be stationed outside the Ancient’s room.
Frank walked over to Peter. “We couldn’t get a description from the old man. He was asleep when the perp put the pillow over his face, and didn’t see a thing. Sandra Mason reported on the news this morning that a ‘highly placed source’ at Metro said that an i.d. will be made in the shooting. I guess the shooter heard the report.”
“And he came here to kill one of the witnesses,” Peter completed the thought morosely. “My father is at risk, isn’t he?”
“I’m afraid so, Pete,” Strenlich agreed. “We’ll have to put him under guard.”
Peter shook his head.
“Detective Caine, do I have to remind you that your father is a possible eyewitness? When his memory clears, he may be one of the only people who can identify this man. The suspect is responsible for several shootings in Chinatown over the past few weeks. We could finally have a strong lead, and your father is it,” Captain Simms said firmly. “He needs our protection.”
“He’s not just a ‘lead’ in a case,” Peter replied angrily. “He’s my father, dammit!” He stopped himself and drew a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I’m just worried about him. I’m not used to seeing him hurt or vulnerable like this. But I know he won’t accept protection.”
“I want to talk to him,” Karen said.
“He’s downstairs in ER,” Peter said, worry for his father in every word. “Dr. Sabourin is rebandaging his shoulder.”
“Lo Si says he saved his life. How did he know his friend was in danger? And, by the way, how did you know?” Captain Simms asked, as they rode the elevator down to the ER floor..
Peter did a creditable imitation of his father’s shrug. “It’s a Shaolin thing,” he said cryptically, smiling to himself at the irony.
Dr. Sabourin was coming out of the examining room when Peter and the Captain entered the ER. “He’s asleep,” she told them quietly. “I want him to rest for an hour or so, then you can take him home. He’s lost more blood, which he really couldn’t afford to lose. He needs bed rest for the next couple of days, because of the blood loss and the concussion. He refused a painkiller, but he promised he’ll use some herbs to help him rest.”
“I need to ask him a few questions,” Karen told the doctor, glancing at her watch.
“All right, but let him rest awhile first, please.” The doctor walked to the elevators.
“Peter?” a weak voice called from the examining room.
Looking grim, Peter went into the little room followed by his Captain. Caine lay on the gurney, his face pale and lined with pain. “Is Lo Si all right?” he asked, reaching for Peter’s hand.
The detective took his father’s hand and assured him, “He’s fine, Dad. He said you saved his life.”
“What happened, Mr. Caine?” Karen asked gently, in spite of Peter’s glare.
“Lo Si . . . was in . . . danger, so . . . I came,” he said simply, pausing between his words. “The man who shot us was trying . . . trying to . . . smother him with a pillow. I tried to fight him. He heard others coming, and he ran away. . .”
“You stopped him from killing the Ancient,” the Captain added. “Are you sure that it was the man who shot you?”
Caine nodded once, but didn’t say anything. He squeezed Peter’s hand gently and took a deep breath. “It was the same man” He gave her as complete a description as he could, then closed his eyes.
“Mr. Caine, I want to put you under police protection. You’re in danger. . .”
Shaking his head, and opening his eyes to look into hers, the injured man protested firmly, “I do not wish protection.” Although further weakened by his defense of Lo Si, Caine clearly was determined. Peter smothered a grin behind his hand, turning away from the expression on the captain’s face.
“But Mr. Caine,” she said helplessly. She wasn’t used to feeling helpless, and she didn’t like it.
“I am all right.” He winked at Peter. “My son is caring for me.”
“Yeah, and I’m doing such a good job, too,” Peter observed wryly.
“You are doing fine,” the elder Caine said softly. He looked Karen in the eye calmly, and said, “My son will be with me. That is all the protection I need.”
Peter drew a deep breath, overwhelmed by the trust in his father’s voice. The pride he felt washed over him and he smiled gratefully. “Thanks, Dad,” he whispered, squeezing his father’s hand in his turn.
“Peter’s one of the best detectives I’ve ever worked with,” the Captain agreed. “But this man seems very determined. Don’t you think your son should have backup?”
Caine seemed to consider for a moment. “He will have it,” he said quietly.
Peter and Karen looked at each other, puzzled.
“Uh, Captain, Strenlich sent me to tell you that the guard on the Ancient is in place,” Kermit Griffin said from the doorway. “He says he’ll stick around for awhile, then report back to the precinct.”
“I have a meeting with the police commissioner in twenty minutes,” Karen said reluctantly. She wasn’t sure she should leave things as they were, but she didn’t know what else to do. She had thought the son was stubborn; now that she had seen the father in action, she knew where Peter’s obstinate streak came from. “What are you doing here, Detective Griffin? Isnt’ this your day off?”
“I heard the call on the police radio. Strenlich told me what’s going on, and I though Peter and Caine might need some help,” Kermit said, looking at Caine steadily. “Would it be all right if I give Peter some backup?”
The Captain frowned. Kermit wasn’t looking at her but at Caine. The injured man smiled slightly at the computer whiz, and nodded.
“Uh, sure. I think that’s a good . . . idea.” She looked at her watch again. “Report back to me later, Detectives. Thank you, Mr. Caine.” She rushed out, wondering how she’d get across town in twenty minutes.
“Okay, Dad, rest here for a few minutes, and we’ll take you home.”
“I will rest at home,” Caine objected, trying to struggle to a seated position.
“Dr. Sabourin wants you to rest here,” Peter protested.
“I will rest at home,” Peter’s father said in a tone of voice the detective knew better than to disobey, even with the Shaolin in a weakened condition. It was what Peter had always called Caine’s “Master’s Voice,” the one he had used in the temple when he would stand for no disobedience from anyone, whether it be monk, disciple, student, or son.
Kermit shrugged, and the two detectives supported the priest out to Peter’s car, settling him in the front seat.
“I’ll follow in my car, just to make sure we don’t have anyone with us,” Kermit told Peter.
“See you,” Peter replied, watching his father out of the corner of his eye.
Caine rested his head against the back of the seat; he held his injured shoulder protectively. “I will be all right,” he maintained, but the weakness in his voice belied his statement.
It was another long, slow climb to Caine’s apartment, but this time Peter walked with his father, supporting his back while the Shaolin leaned his uninjured arm on his son’s shoulder. At last, they reached the top floor, and Peter settled the injured man on his platform. By the time the detective made some more of the herbal tea, his father was already asleep. Peter shook his head, and grinned crookedly at the sleeping man, then quietly put the tea back in the kitchen and went out on the terrace.
“Where’s your Dad?” Kermit asked softly, coming across the terrace to where Peter was sitting, trailing his hand in the water of the fishpond Caine had made.
“Asleep,” Peter answered, staring into the water morosely.
“He’ll be okay, Peter,” the senior detective said softly.
“Maybe,” the younger man replied. “And maybe, not.”
“Come on Peter, he’s not hurt that bad.”
The young detective frowned. “It could be a lot worse, I know that. But, he should be able to heal himself, and he’s not doing it.”
“Maybe it’s the concussion,” Kermit guessed. “Maybe he’s confused, and can’t get himself together to heal.”
“How do you know?”
“Just a guess. I talked to Karen. She told me how disoriented he was last night.” Kermit sat down on the wall that surrounded the terrace, watching the wheels turn in the younger detectives mind.
“I guess I should talk to him,” Peter sighed.
“Let it go, for now, Peter. Just give him time. He’s hurt, and his best friend is in the hospital, and he blames himself because he didn’t prevent it. And, now he has to put you at risk because he can’t take care of himself.” Kermit grinned slightly. “He’s not having a good time, Kid.” Peter stared at Kermit for a long moment. “You and the Captain must have had quite a conversation.”
The two friends sat in silence, until Kermit decided to go to the precinct to see if there was any more information on the shooter’s identification. After the senior detective left, Peter sat on the terrace for awhile, then wandered around his father’s apartment, checking on the sleeping priest every few minutes.
The younger Caine went to the platform and smiled down at his father. “Are you feeling better, Dad?”
“You are concerned about something. What troubles you, Son?” Caine’s voice was not as strong as usual, but he did sound better, and he seemed to be more rested.
Peter couldn’t help grinning, although he noted that Kwai Chang had avoided his question. Deciding not to pursue it for the moment, the detective said seriously, “You aren’t healing yourself, Pop. You haven’t meditated since you were shot. I think its because you don’t trust me.”
“I trust you, My Son,” the Shaolin protested mildly. He searched his son’s anxious face carefully.
“Not enough to let me take care of you while you meditate and help yourself get well,” Peter argued. “You know that there’s danger, and you don’t trust me to handle it.”
Caine smiled faintly, and admitted, “It is not you I cannot trust, My Son.”
“What does that mean? You’re being cryptic, Pop. You know I hate it when you’re cryptic.”
The Shaolin held Peter’s hand, inspecting the fingers closely for several moments. Exasperated, the young detective tried to pull away, but his father held him gently, but firmly.
“It is . . . I . . .,” Caine looked into Peter’s eyes and shrugged, favoring his injured shoulder. “In my head, I believe that you can do anything, Peter. It is my heart that has a problem. . .”
“What problem?” The younger man asked, leaning against the platform.
Caine closed his eyes, and seemed to gather himself. Eyes still closed, he said softly, “My heart is afraid. I lost my son for 15 years. I have him back, and I cannot lose him again. My heart . . . I am afraid that if I. . . ask for your help, and you are hurt because you are trying to help me . . . I do not think I could ‘handle it’.”
“That’s why you wouldn’t let me fight the Dim Mok master, after you told me that we would have to fight as one?”
“Yes,” the injured man admitted. “You have grown in spirit, Peter, and you have wonderful skills. But if Holmes had overcome you. . .”
“He’d have killed me,” Peter agreed.
“Yes,” Caine said, opening his eyes. They were bright with unshed tears. “I could not risk that.”
Peter put his hand over Caine’s and smiled. “What am I going to do with you, Pop?”
The Shaolin pressed his lips together. “Perhaps I am. . . incorrigible?” he suggested.
“Yeah, right.” Peter kissed his father’s forehead, grinning. “Let’s try making a deal, then.”
“A deal?” the elder Caine asked suspiciously.
His father’s tone made Peter grin even more. “I’ll take care of you, now, and you’ll trust me to take care of myself. How’s that?”
“Does that you mean you will no longer need backup?” the priest asked, with a regretful note in his voice.
“I’ll always need your backup, Dad. Just, sometimes, it’ll have to be moral support, not physical protection. Okay?” Peter watched the Shaolin carefully, not sure how his father would react to the request, and not sure how he wanted him to react.
Caine considered for a moment. “I believe we must do this on a ‘case by case’ basis.”
Peter laughed, “Right, Dad.” Nothing had exactly been settled, but it was a start.
The young detective was convinced that if an attack on his father came, it wouldn’t come until dark. “Pop, I need to go to my apartment. I didn’t get to pick up that stuff this morning.” Peter leaned against his father’s platform, where Caine rested. “You’ll be okay for a little while, and Kermit should be back soon.”
“All right, My Son.” Caine’s whispered words were slightly slurred.
“Don’t go ANYWHERE,” Peter ordered as he left. Walking down the hallway, he heard, “Yes, My Son,” echoing behind him.
After he packed a small suitcase at his apartment, and picked up some books and a radio, “Just in case I get bored at Pop’s,” Peter decided to stop by the precinct. The uneasy feeling he had experienced earlier returned when he saw Kermit still at his computer. “What are you doing here?” Peter asked angrily. “Why aren’t you with my father?”
“Whoa, I’m only the backup,” Kermit told him aggressively. “I thought you were going to protect him.”
“He’ll be all right,” Peter responded, totally reversing his previous attitude.
“Or you want him to be all right,” Detective Griffin observed, his eyes carefully focussing on his monitor.
Peter bristled. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
Kermit looked at his friend then, his voice sympathetic, but firm. “You can’t stand the thought that he’s vulnerable, Peter. When he is, like when he was poisoned by the Dim Mok master, you refuse to see it. You figure if you don’t acknowledge that he needs help, he’ll somehow magically be well. One minute you’re smothering him with attention, the next you’re leaving him alone when there’s somebody trying to kill him.”
“Huh? You’ve been playing with too much psychology software, Kermit.”
“Your father came within minutes of dying in that warehouse, after he poisoned himself, Peter. He was weak as a kitten, and he collapsed after he fought Holmes. But what did you do? You drug him away, telling him that he’d be fine. Then, we took him home, and you would have left him alone if I hadn’t shamed you into staying with him.”
“He was all right,” Peter protested. “Well, almost all right,” he added honestly.
“Sure, after we practically carried him up the fire escape, and he passed out while he was showing you how to mix the herbs he needed. He was in great shape. I know he didn’t have the poison in him any more, but he was still weak and sick, and you didn’t want to face that. You were in denial, Cleopatra.”
“So what’s the point,” the younger detective asked uneasily.
“Your father is hurting again, and he needs your protection. And where are you? Here at the precinct, again. You might as well have come in to work, for all the time you’re spending guarding your father. You can’t admit that he needs your help, because it would mean that he can’t take care of himself, and that means he won’t be there for you, if you need him. When he’s hurt, you react as if you think he’s trying to abandon you.”
Peter opened his mouth to continue the argument, but he gasped and turned pale.
Kermit stood up, steadying his friend. “Is it your father?”
The younger Caine pulled away, and ran out, yelling over his shoulder. “Get a patrol car to my father’s place. NOW!”
Peter swore feelingly when he reached his father’s place. “No backup. Where are the police when you need them?” he muttered, getting out of the Stealth and checking his weapon. “Hold on, Pop, help is on the way,” he promised as he ran across the parking lot.
After taking the fire escape stairs three at a time, Peter crept toward his father’s workroom. He peered through the French doors, stopping short. A man stood over Caine, pointing a .38 at the still priest who was lying on his side at the bottom of the sleeping platform. Caine’s back was to his son, so the detective couldn’t judge his condition. The assailant lined up the barrel of his weapon on Caine’s head. The young policeman had no choice. Unable to be certain that the gunman couldn’t get a shot off, the detective wouldn’t risk taking a shot of his own. He didn’t make a pretense of coming in quietly. As he hoped, the gunman’s attention was turned away from his target.
Peter walked in casually, his hands in the air, his own gun dangling loosely from his fingers. “What have you done to my father?” he asked tensely.
“I’m afraid your father isn’t quite himself. He put up a valiant struggle, but he is just too weak to defeat me. After I dispose of you, I will kill him,” the man explained smoothly, turning the weapon toward Peter.
“Nooo!” The low moan from the injured priest startled the assailant, and Peter took advantage, kicking the gun out of his hand, and finishing him with an open handed blow to the sternum and a double kick to the chin.
Peter quickly handcuffed his father’s attacker, and turned to the unmoving form by the platform. He moved slowly, quietly, as if the floor he walked on was made of glass. He knelt, but found that he couldn’t reach out to the injured man. He held his breath, afraid to touch, afraid that even the slightest brush of his fingers against his father’s body would break the priest’s hold on life. It hit him that even his father was not invulnerable, and the knowledge froze the breath in his lungs. With an effort of will, the detective made himself move his hand toward his father’s shoulder, but he couldn’t rid his mind of the totally irrational thought that his touch could cause Kwai Chang Caine to shatter beyond repair into a million pieces of light, lost to his son and all of the other people who loved him.
At last, the younger man breathed again, and found the courage to touch his father, turning him over and gathering the barely conscious man into his arms. “Pop?” The single word was both a plea and a prayer.
Caine struggled to open his eyes, and made the tremendous effort necessary to be able to say, “Are you all right?” It was all he could manage at that moment, but it was enough to reassure Peter. The priest’s eyes remained open briefly, then closed as his body relaxed in his son’s embrace.
When Kermit Griffin and the team from the precinct arrived a few minutes later, they found Peter sitting on the floor, his back against the platform, cradling Caine in his arms. “Do you need an ambulance?” Kermit asked, kneeling beside the two Caines while the gunman was taken into custody, his voice soft, but tinged with anxiety.
The injured man shook his head slightly, but didn’t open his eyes.
“We’ll be all right, I think,” Peter told his friend, and tightening his hold on his father. “We just have to get some things straight.” Caine’s turned slightly, nestling against his son. Peter touched his father’s face gently, brushing back damp hair that clung to the pale cheek and stroking the pain-lined forehead with light fingertips. “He’ll be all right,” he told his friend, smiling sheepishly. “This time, I’ll be here to make sure of it.”
“Let’s get him up, then,” the older detective offered.
Caine shook his head, and opened his eyes. “I would like to stay here, unless you are uncomfortable, Peter,” he whispered, his word slurred with fatigue. He lay quietly, too spent to move.
Peter settled back comfortably against the wall. “I’m fine, Dad. We can stay here as long as you need to.” The Shaolin’s eyes fluttered closed, and he relaxed against his son once again. The younger Caine held him gently, smiling at Kermit. “Just give us a few minutes, okay?”
“Take as long as you need,” the older detective agreed. He sat on the floor, resting an arm on one knee, while his other hand lay lightly on Caine’s upper arm. “I got all the time in the world, Kid.”
Later that evening, after Caine and Peter made their statements to the police, Kermit helped Peter settle the Shaolin on his platform. The police had already left with the suspect, and the younger detective had assured his friend that they would be all right, finally convincing Detective Griffin to leave.
It was not long after that, when, Dr. Sabourin mysteriously appeared to check out her patient (“He’ll be all right, Peter, but he has to stay in bed. I think I told you both this before, but somehow neither one of you seems to be getting the message.”).
Caine slept for several hours. Peter busied himself in the apartment, wandering from room to room, sitting down to read a page of a book or magazine, then getting up again, standing on the terrace for a few minutes, checking his father frequently. He called the precinct several times on the Police Department cellular phone Kermit had left, driving his friend crazy. “For the last time, there’s no conspiracy against your father. It was just a random thing. The guy is nuts, he likes shooting people. He only came back after Lo Si and your father because Sandra Mason said an i.d. was about to be made. Get some rest, Kid,” Kermit advised, before he hung up abruptly.
Peter stared at the phone, shaking his head. “Is this how he treats every concerned citizen?” he wondered.
He went back to his father, looking down at the peaceful face. Kwai Chang woke up to find his son standing beside where he lay on the platform. The priest smiled weakly, and took the detective’s hand. He scooted over, giving his son room to sit down. “It is late. Should you not be asleep?” the injured man asked softly.
“I’m not ready to go to sleep yet, Pop. I have some things on my mind,” Peter explained. “Besides, you need to eat something.”
“I am not hungry, Peter.” Although not nearly as strong as usual, there was still iron in that beloved voice.
“All right, but you’ll eat tomorrow.” It was not a request. “Can we talk, Pop?”
“There is something between us that you want settled,” Caine acknowledged.
“How did….never mind, Pop. Yes, there are a couple of things I want to get straight between us.”
“Go ahead, My Son.”
“First, I want to apologize.” Caine started to say something, but Peter stopped him. “No, Pop, I need to say this. I told you I’d take care of you, and protect you, and I left you alone. I don’t really know why I did it. Kermit thinks that I deny it when you’re hurt or vulnerable, and my way of denying the situation is to make myself think that you’re all right, when you’re not.” The younger man hung his head. “I don’t know. All I know is you needed me, and I let you down. I’m sorry.”
Caine squeezed his son’s hand. Gathering himself, he said gently, “All of us, at some time or the other, let those we love down, as you well know, Peter. When those we love hurt us, all we can do is remember that they do love us, even though we cannot always understand why they do the things they do. I cannot blame you, when you have so often had to make allowances for my actions.” A tear trickled down his cheek. “I will try to be as forgiving as you have been, My Son.”
Peter choked on his own tears as he brushed his father’s tear away with his thumb. “If I am forgiving, it’s because of your example, Father. Please, we’re together and we’re safe. We have each other now. Let’s not worry about the past. Deal?”
“Deal,” Caine murmured. “But, there is something else.”
“You said I could take care of you,” the young man said hesitantly.
“And you are doing well,” his father replied, sleepily.
“I don’t think so, Pop. I’ve been hanging around, but you’ve been mostly taking care of yourself.” He drew a deep breath, and held his father’s hand tightly. “That’s gotta change, Pop. New rules, as of right now,” he added determinedly.
A frown puckered the Shaolin’s brow. “New rules?”
“Yeah, three new rules: number 1, I’m in charge, number two, I’m never wrong, and number three, if I am wrong, look back to rule number one.” Peter laughed out loud at the confusion on his father’s face. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist. If I’m going to take care of you, you have to let me care for you, Dad. That means staying in bed, like Dr. Sabourin said, and letting me wait on you for a couple of days. No visits to your patients, no stops at the hospital to see Lo Si, no shopping trips and no rescuing damsels in distress.”
“Damsels?” Caine raised a questioning brow.
“You know what I mean, Pop. You just have to let me take care of you. And most important of all, you can’t waste your energy worrying about me. I’m fine, and I’ll be here with you. So all you have to do is rest, and let me do the work. Okay?” Although he had spoken firmly, Peter held his breath. He had never talked to his father like this in his life; telling a Shambala Master, especially one who was, also, his parent, how things were going to be was not something the detective recommended under normal circumstances. But this wasn’t normal. Dr. Sabourin had only reluctantly allowed her patient to stay at home. Another mishap, and his father would be in the hospital, possibly fighting for his life. That was a risk Peter simply couldn’t take.
Peter sighed in relief when Caine shrugged, grimacing a little.
“Okay. . . After all you are in charge.” He pushed himself to a sitting position and held out his uninjured arm. “I will try to be as good a patient as you are, My Son,” he said mischievously.
Peter, gently, pulled him into a hug. “Please, don’t do that to me,” he pleaded. “I love you, Pop,” the detective added, holding the older man tightly, overwhelmed with gratitude that his father was safe.
Caine rested his head on Peter’s shoulder, his breath tickling his son’s neck. They sat quietly for several moments, until the younger man realized that the Shaolin was resting heavily against him and his breathing was soft and rhythmic. “Goodnight, Pop,” he said tenderly, but it was a long time later that he reluctantly lay his father down and kissed him goodnight.