Here is the next chapter of the novel. I have been busy and the complete manuscript should be arriving at Amazon and Smashwords very shortly. Once again I apoligize for the awkward formatting. The actual online versions will be professionally presented.
Chinese Christian School
After Constable Barnsdall left, Wynn resumed teaching, trying not to think about the banner and those who placed it. The children hadn’t seen it and Wynn was determined that they would not learn about the incident. She struggled to focus on daily routine and was glad when the final bell of the day sounded. That night, she confided with her father.
“It was monstrous! How could ghosts arrive to plague us? Why now after all these years? What’ve I done to deserve this outrage?”
Wynn’s father shook his head. “My dear, I’d hoped this would never again confront us, surely not here at home. What did the authorities say?”
“The police sent a Constable Barnsdall, who apparently served in China as a military man during the uprising. He was very understanding but frankly, I wasn’t too impressed. He can barely speak the language and the locals don’t seem to respect him. He was very pleasant and assured me of police support but his presence didn’t inspire confidence. However, the bright side is that he mentioned a fellow constable who also has Chinese experience. This man apparently speaks their language and I’ve heard some of the Chinese merchants speak favourably of him. The police officer’s name is Duncan. I don’t believe I’ve met him but some of my students call him Da Jingcha, which as you know means ̔ big cop’. I think he must be superior.”
Wynn’s father sat back from the table placing his knife and fork on his empty plate.
“Yes, if the children refer to him by that title it tells me that their parents hold the officer in some degree of esteem. Let’s hope that he is culturally aware enough to work with the Law and Order Mandarin of the Benevolent Association. If Duncan can do that, then truly he will be able to root out the evil beings that placed the banner. I know that Jin Jiang, head of the Canadian Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association is no friend of the Boxers. I spoke with him just last week; he is most concerned with the arbitration and maintenance of order within his community. Feuding of any sort, especially from overseas, will hamper struggles against discrimination by Europeans. The last thing he or the Benevolent Association want is a revival of Boxer extremism.”
The Reverend smiled at his daughter.“Jiang was most grateful, by the way, for your lobbying efforts with the Victoria City Hall and the Provincial government in the cause of eliminating the opium factories. Jiang is a wise man who sees nothing but misery for his community if the trade continues. He asked me to express his thanks in this matter.”
Wynn’s face flushed and she slammed her hand on the table.
“If only some of the fat European merchants in Victoria, who profit from the trade in that poison, could be brought to account! I’m sorry, Father but the ignorance of some people is abysmal. Can’t they see the destruction of the human spirit this drug brings?”
“It’s not as simple as that, Wynn, dear. Most of these people don’t view our Chinese brethren as being on a par with us. The demons of discrimination are major obstacles the Chinese will have to wrestle with, for many generations.”
Wynn lay in bed later that night thinking about her day. The specters from her childhood loomed amongst the shadows in her bedroom and she had to force down fear. She turned to prayer and peace settled over her. Just as she was drifting off to sleep, she wandered into a fantasy of speculation about ‘her’ constable, wishing he was the one assigned to help her. Wynn imagined his strong arms protecting her from the Boxer scourge, whisking her away to a safe haven of love and security. Her thoughts melded into erotic dalliance and stirred the warmth of physical response. Wynn curled into a ball and surrendered to release of pleasant, naughty thoughts, then slept.
The following morning the temperature in her bedroom was decidedly cold. Outside, solid frost shimmered on the grass, lacing the edge of puddles. A leaden sky spoke of a fair chance of snow. It was Saturday and Wynn was tempted to delay leaving the comfort of her bed, but reluctantly she dragged herself out into the cold. School reports for the government beckoned. As she approached the school, she saw friend Kung busy scrubbing the boardwalk in front of her building on his hands and knees. Evidently he was trying to obliterate some writing splashed in red paint.
“Oh, Teacher I was hoping you would not see this… someone has written another foul message. I will not tell you the meaning but it is evil and has no place in this community. I will speak of this to the Benevolent Association this morning. The chill in the air is nothing compared to the ice in the hearts of those who wrote this. I fear for your safety, Teacher. May your gods protect you.”
“I refuse to be intimidated! I’ll be right back to help you remove that slogan after I renew my presence with our local constabulary.” Wynn headed up the street towards the police station. Suddenly she stopped and turned to Kung. “On second thought, don’t erase any more of the message. I have a plan. Don’t do anything until I return.”
Wynn tugged open the heavy door to the police station and quickly slipped past its brass kick plate. A gust of warm air embraced her as she unwound her scarf, removed her mittens, then approached the main desk. A clerk sat where the Sergeant had been on her previous visit.
“I would like to talk with the Sergeant, please. Winifred Paxton is my name and I spoke to him just recently.”
“Sergeant McTaggart is busy with the morning duty parade,” replied the clerk, “but he’ll only be a few moments. Would you care to have a seat?”
Wynn found a bench next to the front door as the clerk disappeared into a back room. After unfastening her coat, she noted that the clerk had reappeared.
“Someone will be with you in just a moment, madam.”
She smiled and he returned to writing in his ledger. Almost immediately, a figure appeared from the back room and Wynn felt an electric jolt tickle through her body. Standing there was her Constable. She couldn’t pull her gaze from his face, especially his hazel eyes that seemed to lock with hers in a most disconcerting manner.
“I understand you are waiting for me?” he said in a deep resonant voice.
Fleeting thoughts of last night’s fantasy in her bedroom surfaced and Wynn blushed. He can’t possibly know, she thought, desperately hoping her face wouldn’t betray her inner warmth.
“You are Mrs. Paxton,” the constable said, “school master at the Chinese Academy of Learning?”
“Well, yes but how did you know?” she stammered.
“You’ve reported receiving threats. Please, allow me to introduce myself, I’m Constable Redvers Duncan. Sergeant McTaggart has asked me to look into the matter.”
Of course! Wynn had a flash of insight. ‘Get a grip on yourself woman, you’re blithering like an idiot. Just who did you think they were calling ̔big cop’ Wynn straightened her back, self-consciously brushing a hair behind her ear.
“Constable Duncan, at last we meet. I’ve heard good things about you in the Chinese community. Yes, I do have a problem and this morning it has only gotten worse. Could you please accompany me to my school?” After Wynn had readjusted her outer garb, Redvers held the heavy door open. She looked up at him and smiled, “I’ve a plan regarding the threats that I’d like to discuss with you and, by the way, it’s Miss Paxton.”
Redvers and Wynn stepped out from the police station into a very nasty snow squall. The flakes, large and sodden, clung to everything in a sopping mass. Wynn set a fast pace as the pair skirted large slush puddles, crossing Fisgard street.
“How long have you been stationed in Victoria, Constable?”
“A while, Miss, most of it on Chinatown beat. I was in China with the Royal Marines during the Boxer troubles. The chief placed me here because I can relate to the culture better than most, I suppose. At least, I understand a bit of the inner workings.”
Wynn smiled up at him. “My family was in China as well during the rebellion. It cost my mother her health. She was shot by those savages; it led her to an early grave. I respect the Chinese— well not the Boxer rabble—most I find to be hard working and intelligent. I‘ve heard of your reputation from some of my students. They call you Da Jingcha, did you know that?”
Redvers chuckled and hid his embarrassment with a snort and a shrug of his shoulder, clearing a bit of snow from his cape. “Do they? I wasn’t aware of that. They must be referring to my size.”
She smiled up at him. “Oh, you project a formidable profile, Constable and not just among the Chinese.”
Once at the school, Wynn showed Redvers the red lettering on the boardwalk outside its entrance.
“Hmm, this is a warning; it appears to be directed towards your students, advising them not to attend classes.”
Wynn was pleased; this constable really did understand Mandarin, it was just another reason to be intrigued. “As you see, the cowards have taken to threatening children as well as women. I won’t be intimidated and with your help I intend to fight them.”
“You have the backing of the police force, Miss Paxton, and my personal support. The first thing we should do is to erase this message. Let me help.”
“Actually, Constable, I think we should leave it. Furthermore, I want to place a sign in Mandarin myself, prominently located, to proclaim my defiance of these thugs. I’ll not lose face by hiding this scrawl on my boardwalk or shutting myself within the confines of my school, instead I want to stride about the community, demonstrating outrage. I’m confident I’ll find wide support.”
Wynn invited Redvers into the school and then went to the kitchen area where she put on the kettle. As she set out some biscuits, she watched while Redvers moved about the small classroom, examining lesson plans on the chalkboard.
“I should come by for some brushing up on my Mandarin. It has been awhile and my grasp of the script is a bit rusty. Perhaps you might be available to tutor me?”
Wynn’s eyes widened at the thought. “Yes, perhaps we could arrange something.”
“I realize I’m being a bit forward and I apologize but you see I’m most interested in making some inroads within the Chinese Community.”
Wynn stood in the kitchen doorway, arms crossed, as she leaned against the frame. “Very admirable, Constable, what better way to get to know a community than to learn to speak its language. The tea is ready; may I offer you a biscuit?”
The two sat at a table and continued to exchange pleasantries. Redvers glanced out the window and noted a figure leaning against a brick wall across the street, hat shadowing his face, apparently watching them. Wynn was chatting about her plans for the proclamation of defiance, as she termed her planned banner. When Redvers glanced again, the person was gone but a sense of unease disturbed his concentration.
Wynn outlined the intended purpose of her proclamation. “I wish it to show that this isn’t China and that the King’s law rules, even within the boundaries of this community. I was hoping that phrases, such as the cowardly dogs who threaten women and children, lurk in shadows, and do not dare to reveal their faces, might serve just that purpose. Furthermore, with your permission, of course, I’d like to add that this school and I are under the protection of Da Jingcha Duncan. Would that be acceptable?”
Redvers thought about the possible repercussions and then realized this just might help him establish a better community profile. “It might be dangerous but I’m certainly willing to support, as long as you realize the pitfalls.”
Wynn beamed at him. “Then, let’s get to it! I’ll employ formal Mandarin, not the crude, colloquial dialect used by the cowards; I could barely understand what they said. My message will be clearly understood by the whole community.”
That afternoon, Redvers and Kung, the grocer, helped Wynn attach her proclamation in bright red letters above the school entrance. Soon a gathering of merchants and other citizens murmured their approval. Before long, Jin Jiang, head of the Canadian Chinese Benevolent Association, arrived and approached Wynn.
“Teacher, you are clearly a woman of courage. May your God bless and protect you. You have my support and that of the Association.”
Wynn grabbed Redvers by the arm and tugged him closer to Jiang. “Revered one, allow me to introduce Constable Duncan. He is working to keep me safe and my school free from harassment.”
Redvers offered his hand. “I have heard much of you and the Association; I had hoped to meet you personally. I’m working to keep all the citizens of this community safe. It’s an honour to be of assistance.”
“Yes, I have knowledge of you as well, Da Jingcha, perhaps our futures will share a common path?”
Redvers made several passes by the school during foot patrols of Chinatown that afternoon. He was quite surprised to find lights on in the building as the afternoon faded. He knocked and stepped into the front entrance. “Miss Paxton, do you always work so late on a Saturday?”
“Oh, Constable, I was just about to lockup and head home. It’s been a busy day but a good one. As I suspected, many of the merchants have dropped by with gestures of support.” She pointed to a table containing cards and messages. Many were marked with bright inked family seals. “It is somewhat overwhelming. I can’t wait to tell my father, speaking of which, I must hurry. He’s very particular about meal time punctuality and doesn’t like me venturing out after dark by myself.”
“Would you allow me to escort you home? It’s part of my duty to ensure the safety of citizens.” Redvers stared directly into her brown eyes, this time she met his gaze.
The snow had stopped, only a slight dusting remained mostly in areas where the sporadic afternoon sunshine was unable to reach. The pair arrived at the Paxton residence much too soon for Wynn’s liking, their animated conversation interrupted in midstream. As they stood on the porch, the front door opened and the Reverend Mr. Paxton looked out.
“Oh, Father, you startled me!’ said Wynn. “Constable Duncan, this is my father.”
Redvers immediately spotted the white neck-collar of a clergyman and removed his helmet.
“Good evening Padre.”
“Is everything alright, Winifred?” asked the Reverend. “Has there been trouble at your school again?”
“There was a bit but no, Father, nothing to be concerned about. Constable Duncan accompanied me so I wouldn’t have to walk alone in the dusk.”
Reverend Paxton nodded at Redvers. “Thank you for escorting my daughter, Constable. I worry about her on the street alone at night. Won’t you come in for a moment?”
“Thank you, Padre but just for a moment, I must continue my patrols, I’m on duty for a while yet.” Redvers tucked his pith helmet under his arm and stepped over the threshold. Wynn closed the door and disappeared down the hall, shedding her coat.
There was a moment of awkward silence and then Reverend Paxton spoke up, “I saw you in church a few Sundays ago, if I am not mistaken. Will we see you again this week?”
“I am afraid not, Padre. I have patrol duties tomorrow morning, perhaps next week.”
Wynn returned to the foyer, apparently she’d been fussing with her appearance as she was wearing a bright scarf and had put her hair up. She snuggled close to her father, hugging his arm. “Can I fix you a cup of tea, Constable Duncan?”
Redvers paused, opened his mouth and then closed it then straightened his collar, “Actually, thank you but no, I must be on my way. Sorry about being abrupt but I do have some duties to attend to before the end of shift so, perhaps another time? I’ll be in touch.” He placed the helmet on his head. “Good evening then, Padre. Miss Paxton.”
Not all reaction to Wynn’s proclamation of defiance was positive. In an upper room on the south edge of Chinatown, two figures lay on cots, sullenly passing an opium pipe between them.
“Our European friend is a fool. The woman is fiercer than we had anticipated and the reception she is receiving is alarming. Worse, she seems to have allied herself with Da Jingcha Duncan. Instead of solving the problem, we may have provided her more credibility and brought additional difficulty to our business. When word of this reaches the old country, there will be trouble. The Tong Lord will be displeased.”
After a moment of drug-addled silence, his companion grunted. “Maybe now, Long Nu will understand, and we will be allowed to solve the problem our way.”