Kermit entered the home of Kwai Chang Caine, looking around warily. There was something about this place that always tickled the sides of his eyes, as if something was just itching to jump at him from some alcove, or behind one of the many priceless objects in this place. That was the other thing that nagged at him: for all of Caine's wanderings, he seemed to keep a lot of priceless objects about him, especially art.
Caine sat in meditation, both of his hands on his knees pointed upwards in full relaxation. But underneath that relaxed exterior, Kermit seemed to see some sort of tension. Almost a flow. Kermit shook his head. He'd always had that problem, seeing things that weren't there and interpreting things in fanciful ways . . . "Mr. Caine?" he spoke respectfully.
Caine didn't answer, so Kermit did the next best thing. He saw a golden bell resting a fur-covered wooden circle, and rang it once.
Caine's eyes opened. "Kermit," he didn't show any surprise. "You look disturbed."
Kermit was unnaturally nervous, that was for certain. He took off his sunglasses, which was quite rare for him. His eyes, now uncovered, had a fragile quality to them -- as if he needed the glasses to keep the world away. "I am disturbed."
"Then sit," Caine waved his hand lazily, "and discuss this matter with me over tea."
Kermit hadn't noticed it, but there was a raised tray with a teapot and several empty cups. Both the teapot and cups were quite delicate, as if merely touching them might shatter them . . . but as he soon learned, that would not be the case.
He sat on the floor, not taking the tea placed before him. Caine hadn't touched the tea either.
They waited in silence for a few more moments. Caine showed no particular hurry or impatience.
Kermit finally spoke, "I think I've uncovered something . . . that shouldn't have been disturbed."
A long pause. "And do you think it needs to be recovered?"
Kermit was emphatic. "No. It needs to be destroyed."
"And what is it that you have uncovered?"
Kermit shuddered, but the tea calmed him down. At the moment, it would be hard to believe that even yesterday, this man hadd appeared to be a stone that all others turned to for support. Any more stress, and this solid rock would shatter. "It's a long story, but to make it short, I was helping Peter with an investigation -- that murder case?" He sipped some more tea, "Well, there's this sketch that someone drew on the concrete and I looked into it --"
He couldn't speak anymore. He held onto his head as if he was trying to crush it or keep it from exploding from some other force.
Caine put a hand on the top of his head, "Fear is the hidden killer. All you must do is know it for what it is, and you will see that it is only a wind in the door . . . Something that does not exist."
Kermit fell asleep, still shuddering. With a little effort, Caine managed to carry him to a cot usually reserved for the ill who came to his home for aid. Kermit was ill too, but it was a different kind of illness.
* * *
A while later, not too far away from his father's home, Peter was at his desk, typing up a final report to a routine case that he'd been doing on the side. "Just a few more minutes . . . and I'm outta here!" He was in a good mood; he'd made these reservations . . . but before he lifted his eyes he knew that he'd have to cancel them. His father stood right in front of him, with that 'look' on his face. Something was up.
"We must talk, my son. Something is afoot." His look was graver than usual. Something really unusual had to be up.
"Hold on a moment. I need to finish this up."
He sighed, but before he even had time to save his file, there was a commotion on the other side of the room.
"You can't do anything to ME!!" roared someone in a straight jacket, laughing with glee.
Peter sighed. That someone was a frothing lunatic he'd brought in yesterday with extreme difficulty. The guy was a complete nutcase, but being a nutcase wasn't a crime. They'd have to let him go after the mandatory time limit, since they couldn't really pin anything significant on him other than being an annoyance.
Caine, on seeing the man, froze. While Peter saw a madman, Caine saw something much more sinister. "That man must be stopped!"
"Don't I know it!" Peter put his face in his hands.
The lunatic locked eyes with Caine, howling with rage this time. Peter watched in shock and amazement as the lunatic tensed his arms and ripped the straight jacket apart at the seams in one try.
"Holy shit!" While Peter was drawing his gun, the lunatic started pummeling the two officers who had been trying to escort him to the door. Everything seemed to be going so slow. By the time he drew his gun out, however, it was too late. One half-senseless officer was held in a painful leverage hold, and he stood in between the lunatic and the gun.
"How ruthless are you?" snarled the lunatic, staring Peter in the eyes. "How far will you go to enforce your laws?"
Peter knew this officer. He knew his family. He even knew what the man's favorite kind of doughnut was.
"Let him go," Peter tried to reason with him. "It's still not too late."
"DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?!" The individual muscles were visible on the lunatic's neck as he screamed. "IT'S TOO LATE FOR ALL OF US! THERE IS NO REDEMPTION! DAMNATION IS WITHIN US ALL, AND ALL IT NEEDS IS THE KEY! PAIN!"
Peter could see the officer's eyes slowly come back to normal, and fear entered those eyes. He didn't know what to do.
The lunatic whispered into the officer's ears. "Do you know what? I'm going to give you the best gift you'll ever have: a quick death!"
"No!" Peter tried to shoot at the lunatic's head, but it was too late.
Chief Strenlich had fired his gun from a right angle to Peter, blowing a clean hole into the lunatic's head, blowing out a larger hole on the other side. The man spasmed once, and fell to the ground.
The officer sighed in relief and sat, shaking and crying.
Kwai Chang Caine was furious. It was one of the few times he had ever shown his anger. "Why did you kill that man?" he demanded, staring down Strenlich.
"What do you mean?" he asked in puzzled shock. "He was going to kill Jones!"
"He was a source of valuable information!" Caine snapped. He knelt at the side of the lunatic, looking at both of the man's hands. "There! He holds the signs, and now we will never know what secrets he hides!"
Strenlich bent over to look at the signs. "Those! They're probably tattoos anyone could get on the street for fifty bucks!"
Caine stared at him like he was an idiot. "You do not know what you say. These signs are not common tattoos, and they signify that something dark and sinister has occurred. Perhaps it has stopped, but we will not know that for certain until it is too late!"
Peter came to Strenlich's defense, "Are you suggesting that he should have let Johnson kill us all?"
"NO!" Caine's anger was riding full speed. "It is possible to stop a man without taking his life! We could have disabled him, and determined the cause of his illness. Perhaps we could have even cured him! But now, it is out of our hands!"
His eyes blazed as he looked at the signs again. Intricate runes, they were, almost like Chinese writing in their weaving complexity, but they were certainly not from the East. The appearance of these runes was Western.
* * * *
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