The Darkness in the Tree – Part 14

The officers surrounded the five people at the foot of the tree but did not interfere with them. Slowly, the glow receded and one of the PCs turned on a flashlight. The tree was now light to dark blue in colour. He looked up and saw that every single leave the tree had possessed was gone, the branches, all of them, were the same colour as the trunk. Then one of the five collapsed to his knees. The circle broke and went to his aid. It was Huang that cradled, what they now knew to be an elderly man, in his arms. Nurse Suen pulled open Wong’s collar and stroked his forehead.

Lai, only semi-conscious now and wavering on his feet, leaned forward and croaked a question.

Huang turned to him and said, “What happened? Something that should have happened many years ago”. He asked for an ambulance and turned back to the old man. No sooner were the words out of his mouth than he heard the sounds of a siren. The call had gone out, officers injured, one seriously. The ambulance would be here shortly and paramedics would arrive to ferry the injured to the emergency clinic in Tai Po Hospital. But for old Wong, it would be too late. With a mental farewell to the others, he closed his eyes and went to a well-earned rest. Huang held him, put his face to the old man’s forehead, and wept.

Epilogue

Daylight revealed that the tree had indeed been petrified. Its body was as hard as a rock. Chan, in his capacity as an officer of the Secretary for Security, ordered that the park be quarantined for an indefinite period.

Lai survived his injuries, barely. He had lost a great deal of blood and needed several pints to save his life. The officers of Tai Po Police Station lined up at the hospital to donate.

Chuen had suffered only superficial wounds but unfortunately, some of the scars healed just above his mouth and across his cheeks. Behind his back he was known as ‘Cat Man’, but few had the courage to say it to his face. He continued to feed the strays in and around his village.

Lo was promoted to Probationary Inspector and after a year made Inspector. He sat for the Senior Inspectors exam which he passed with flying colours and went on to enjoy a distinguished career.

None of the officers present at this last operation would ever speak about their experience. It had been suggested to them that it would be good for their careers if they were to remain silent. It was unlikely that anyone would have believed them anyway.

Nurse Suen returned to her position at the Sui Lam Centre, and the others in ‘Huang’s Army’ disappeared back into the obscurity they had come from. No one ever learned their names. Many of the officers present could not even remember having seen them. Wong was given a pauper’s funeral. It was what he wanted, and anyway, for Wong, death was not the end but the beginning of a new adventure. His ashes were scattered over the Eastern hills of Lantau Island.

Edwin Chan returned to the Secretary for Security where he remained for only five months. Much to the distress of Alphonse Lo, the ‘Sec for Sec’, Chan resigned after he had been invited to take up residence in Singapore. His sponsor was Huang Li Man. The man had much to teach him.

And atop a petrified tree, still labeled, ‘Tectona Grandis of the family Verbenaceae’, in a Tai Po Park, the Darkness glared down from its frozen dungeon. Waiting for the day it would be released.

It had survived for over a thousand years, it had learned patience…

 

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

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