“My name Sue Ling,” The korean woman said when she returned. “You Maxine Stone?”
“Yes I am Maxine Stone,” I said. I was surprised that she recognized me. It was something I was going to have to get used to.
“Where camera?” she asked.
“Somewhere in the parking lot, I’m sure.” I replied without giving it much thought.
“You want them in?” she asked. She showed me that she understood how things worked.
“If you don’t mind, I am sure they would like to be in here,” I replied.
“No problem,” she replied returning to the front door to wait for Willy to show up.
When Willie came in she was carrying one of the large cameras. The images would be much better and it handled difficult lighting situations much better as well. The three of us went into the one large room of the Martial Arts school.
“I would like to be clear about what I want. I don’t plan to compete in any tournaments, or anything like that. I just want to know how best to use this cane as a defensive weapon.” I stated yet again.
“Understand, I will not make you bow to the east or make funny noises,” she said smiling. When she smiled, I was able to judge her age a little better. She was more youthful than I had thought. Her age did not matter or whether her belt color matched her Gi. All I wanted to do was prevent some drunk from beating the shit out of me.
Willy most likely had a ball watching Sue Ling slap me around for the first thirty minutes of the lesson. What Willy most likely missed, but I didn’t, was that Sue Ling was watching me like a hawk. Every time she attacked me, she also showed me how to parry it. First it was one attack and one parry move then it was a different variation of the same attack and just a slightly different parry move. It went on and on until my cheeks were red from her not so gentle slaps.
When a half hour passed, we took a break. “You are quick of mind and movement except your feet are stiff,” she informed me.
“I know my leg is weak and stiff. I will get better, but maybe not much better.” I said.
“When the body is weak, the mind must be strong. You have to will that you win, before you can win. When you do that, you teach your body how to make it happen. I will help you teach your body how to make it happen.”
“No thank you, I know how to win, trust me. I just need to know how to use this weapon,” I said holding the cane up to her. I had to admit that she had already taught me a great deal about how to move and parry with the cane.
She nodded her head first, then said, “Americans always in hurry.”
“Instant oatmeal is to blame,” I said.
“Did you ever notice how bad instant tea is?” she asked in almost accent free English.
I smiled broadly. “Ah ha, I thought so.”
“Nothing gets past you,” she said. “Now let’s go back. I am enjoying beating the crap out of you.” she said.
“Let me go get my tools and we can do this for real,” I said with a laugh.
“Oh no, my place, my rules,” with that we went back into the studio.
For the next half hour the blows got harder but she landed fewer of them. Since she was striking me open handed I parried her with much less force than I would have with someone who was intent on injuring me. Even so I’m sure I gave her a bruise or two. The real thing she did for me in that first hour, was teach me that the cane was a real weapon, not a novelty. As an offensive weapon I needed very little training, since I already knew how to use a police baton, but the thrust and parry, I had badly needed. Especially with the gimp leg. Even the baton moves were hard with the stiff leg.
Willy and I left Sue Ling after a total of an hour and a half. I paid her a hundred dollars. She and I also agreed that I would stop by at the same time of day again in a few days.. Since her first class wasn’t until noon, she could fit in private lessons almost any day. At least any day that she happened to be in the studio early. I could also call for an appointment, if I so desired.
“Sue, the TV people will be by to get a release, so that they can use this footage. It will make good TV, I think. You might want to negotiate a good price for your release.” I winked at her.
When I turned my cell phone on I had two messages. One was from my latest cop friend, Mike Dawson… Ms Stone call me, I have some news.
I dealt with each of my messages, before I move on to the next one. It’s an old military habit. “Don’t you ever sleep?” I asked when he answered the phone.
“I bet you were up before me,” he replied.
“No bet, so what is it that you have for me.”
“Don, is so very sorry that he made an ass of himself and just wants it all to go away.” The sarcasm just dripped from Mike’s voice.
“And did we expect anything else from the prick,” I asked.
“Of course not, but I think you put the fear of got into him. He seems to have been impressed by his first encounter with a stungun.” he said.
“Yeah, how long you figure that memory will be strong enough to make him behave?” I asked.
“I’d give it a week,” he said.
“You are an optimist,” I replied. “Thanks for the info. I guess that means I can come down and pick up my tools?”
“Yeah, come down and see me around noon. I’ll have them and the release for you to sign. Bring the cute redhead with you.”
“Sorry Mike, I don’t get to choose which camera person I have with me.” I said.
“You already have a fan club,” I said to Willy. She just nodded. I expected her to be a little off balance for a while, so I paid no attention.
The second message was from Lindsay of all people… We need to talk. it read. “Son of a bitch,” I said aloud. I dialed her number anyway.
“Have you seen Cheryl,” she demanded angrily.
“No, is she missing?” I asked.
“Yes, she is missing,” Lindsay said. “She left Helen’s soon after you did this morning. She walked right by me and didn’t even speak.”
“Did you ask Helen?” I suggested. What I didn’t say was that Cheryl had most likely left to be with someone else. Even so, I would bet that she called Helen first.
“No, I’m her parole officer, if I do that it might make trouble for her with Helen.” she said.
“Not to mention how it will look, if Helen complains to your boss. So you want me to call, just to be sure it isn’t something we need to worry about?” I asked.
“Yes, I guess that is why I called you,” Lindsay replied. “Also to be sure she didn’t run off on some errand for you.”
“Well not to worry, she isn’t out murdering anyone for me. Before I call Helen and make an ass of myself, is there anything else that has you concerned?” I asked.
“No, just that she didn’t mention anything on the phone, when we talked last night.” she said.
“What time was that?” I asked.
“It was about eight, I took the kids to a movie and I called her from the lobby, before I took them home. Once I get home it is hard to just talk to her. You know how that is,” she said.
“Actually I don’t, but I’ll take your word for it.” I said.
After I killed the connection with Lindsay, I called Helen. “Helen somebody just called to ask if Cheryl was okay. It seems she left in the middle of breakfast at the sit down,” I said.
“Maxine, I thought she would have called you. Her dad is in the regional hospital. He had a stroke.” she informed me.
“I have been working out, so I’m going home to shower. As soon as I finish, I’ll be headed up there,” I said.
“Will you call me when you know what is happening. Once I get everything started, Jack and I will be going up there as well.” she said. “If she needs us, I can drop everything and just go.”
“I doubt that there is anything any of us can do. I’ll see how she is doing and let you know.”
Just over half an hour later I found Cheryl sitting in a family waiting room outside the the MRI lab. I pulled her to her feet and hugged her. “Cheryl I am so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”
She burst into tears and shook her head. She was shaking so hard I thought she might cause me to lose my balance. She finally got control of herself. “He is in a coma. His new wife is administrator of his living will, so there is nothing I can do.”
“It’s almost noon, do you want me to get you some food or anything?” I asked.
“I would kill for a good cup of coffee?” she admitted.
“I can do that. Do you want me to call anyone?” I asked.
“Call Helen, tell her I have no idea when I will be back to work. Then call Lindsay tell her what happened. Tell her to stay away, I don’t need her and she can only make things worse here.”
Cheryl had it under control. She was emotional, but she knew how to control her emotions and take care of business. I was both happy and sad to see it. Happy because she would get things done the right way, but sad because suppressing the emotions would eventually take a toll on her.
I made the two calls and one to Lucas as well. I explained the situation and told him to just hang tight. Keep watching Smiley’s accounts and try to figure out what his life pattern was from his credit card charges.
Helen was understanding and told me that she would be at the hospital late in the afternoon if nothing had changed. Lindsay on the other hand was just pissed that Cheryl didn’t want her around. She was obviously more in love than Cheryl, if there are degrees of love that is. I have never been anything but in love or not in love. But maybe there are more degrees of love than I can feel.
While I was out I made the quick stop at the police station for my two pistols and the stungun. I also stopped by the sit down for the coffee. When I got back to the hospital with a fancy thermos filled with coffee and a box of cookies from Helen’s Sit Down, I found Cheryl in the her father’s room along with her step mother. She introduced me. Neither of us would likely remember what was said. Both Cheryl and her step mother drank coffee form Helen’s thermos.
“Helen said to tell you she will bring more coffee when she and Jack come up later.” I said it only because I promised Helen that I would.
Cheryl stood then walked from the room. I followed her into the hallway. “My Dad is going to die, isn’t he?” she asked.
“I’m no doctor but I would say the odds are against him right now. He is in the best possible place, so he does have a chance. I wouldn’t give up hope just yet.” I said.
“My step mother gave the doctor and the hospital copies of his living will. She signed the papers to not allow resuscitation or any other emergency measures to keep dad alive. Also the will says no tubes at all, not even a feeding tube. We talked about it and we couldn’t do that. He does have a feeding tube. Neither of us could let him starve to death.”
“It is good that you are making these decisions together.” I suggested.
“We disagree about my lifestyle, but we agree that we both want what’s best for daddy,” she said breaking into tears. “He stood bye me and came to visit me every two weeks while I was inside. He was the only one who cared. He had lawyers constantly on the case to get me out the moment I was eligible for parole. I’m going to miss him,” she said.
“I know,” it was all I could say.