The Darkness in the Tree – Part 11

Chan and Superintendent Lai drank sweetened tea from plastic cups and watched the monitors as the evening turned darker. There was a feeling of anticipation, although no one really knew what to expect. The best they could hope for was that Huang would be stupid enough to turn up so they could arrest the fool and ship him off back to Singapore. It wouldn’t solve the murders but at least it would clear up one very large part of the problem. Neither Chan nor Lai nor any of the officers present noticed the egrets gathering in the trees overhead.

000

The Darkness also sensed that something was about to happen. Try as it might it couldn’t pinpoint Huang’s location. It knew he was close, but not exactly where he was. It also sensed the presence of others, but none of them was familiar with it.

It sent out mental instructions to the egrets that even then were gathering. It also garnered the support of every stray cat within a mile’s radius. Even now they were padding silently in the direction of the park. Ginger, black, calico, one-eyed, lame, the Darkness summoned them all.

000

Lai sent two of his plain-clothed officers out to walk the length of the park. They both carried their service revolvers and hidden radios. They were to report anything unusual. Sgt. Lo, and PC Chuen had set out, not expecting any trouble. They had been doing this beat for days now and in their opinion, the killer was long gone. Why would a murderer remain in an area with this much of a police presence? They reached the end of the path and started back. Sgt. Lo called in a brief report to tell the OIC Lai where they were.

Sgt. Lo was a career officer. He had sat for and passed the exam for promotion to Inspector twice now. Unfortunately, promotions in the force were very much based on dead men’s shoes. It didn’t matter if you had passed the exam if there were no vacancies within a twelve-month period from the date of passing, your name went to the back of the list and you had to resit the exam.

Lai had assured him that he would do his best to ensure that he didn’t miss out again and Lo believed him. Lai looked after his officers whether they were rank and file or inspectorate.

They were walking back now at a stroll, in no hurry to get back to the stuffy confines of the control room when Lo saw the cat. He pointed it out to Chuen, knowing that the PC was a cat lover. He was constantly bringing strays into the report room, feeding them out of his lunch box and then trying to find homes for them. He was constantly at loggerheads with his wife and the people of the village where he lived for feeding an army of strays.

The cat was obviously a stray. Skinny, ginger and unkempt, a sure sign that it was unwell, probably from malnourishment. Chuen crouched down and held out a hand to the cat, making encouraging noises to bring it closer. He and Lo were totally unprepared for what happened next. The cat moved backwards slightly and Chuen thought it was going to run away. Then it gathered its haunches and launched itself at Chuen’s face. The PC staggered backwards, taken totally by surprise and in terrible pain. The cat had buried its claws into his face just behind the eyes and cheek. It was trying to bite at his forehead. Chuen’s first reaction was to reach up and pull the animal away but its claws were embedded in his face.

“Help”, he called out to Lo, who was standing there in shock. Snapping out of it, he grabbed the cat and pulled it away, leaving several two-inch-long scratches on each side of Chuen’s face. Lo heaved the cat into the bushes and crouched, ready for it to spring back. He had seen dogs attack people, but never a cat!

Lo’s radio sprang to life. He had forgotten that it was permanently on and OIC Lai had obviously heard the commotion.

“It’s all right, we’re OK and on our way back”, said Lo.

Back at the control room, they treated Chuen’s face with the First Aid they had on hand. One of the wounds had missed his right eye by millimetres. There was a lot of blood and the scratches would have to be treated at a hospital to prevent infection, but the man was going to be all right.

Lo explained to the OIC what had happened while Chan listened in. None of this was a coincidence! He realised that they needed Huang more than they thought. Where are you? Thought Chan, not realising that the Singaporean was closer than he could possibly imagine.

Lai instructed Lo to take Chuen to the Tai Po Hospital for treatment. There was a squad car waiting outside the park entrance so they could use that. The least publicity the better he thought. While Chuen was preparing himself Lo opened the door of the control room and shut it again with a slam and an exclamation.

“What now?” Asked Lai.

“Cats”, said Lo, “hundreds of them, everywhere”.

Chan, who had remained silent during the past few moments groaned inwardly. He could just see the headlines in the local press now: “Heavily Armed Police Squad Held Captive by Stray Cats”.

Lai cracked the door open and closed it again quickly.

“He’s right! There’s hundreds of them”. Then the officers could hear their yowling. They were hungry!

He went to the monitors as did all the others. Cats, seemingly in their hundreds, were gathered outside the Control Room. As they watched one of the monitors went blank. They had cut the feed.

“All right!” Said Lai. “I’ve had enough of this. We need to get Chuen to the hospital and he needs to go now!”

 (c) Copyright John Stewart Sloan – 2017 – Not for Distribution

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