Dukkha: Hungry Ghosts - A Sam Reeves Martial Arts Thriller
The following is an excerpt from Dukkha: Hungry Ghosts. Sam Reeves and his girlfriend Mai are enjoying a morning at Saturday Market, a sprawling weekend bazaar along Portland's waterfront. From the top of a bridge at the market, a crazed man, "Tonto," announces that he will be the crowds designated shooter.
A Quiet Morning. Or is it?
Bruce Lee said there was no such thing as a sixth sense, only a sharpening of the five. All five or six of mine are humming right now. Something isn't right here. I don't carry an off duty gun. In fact, I'm hit and miss when it comes to carrying it on duty.
An arrow bounces off the pavement five feet to my right.
Another, three feet away. This guy can load fast and he's shooting at me because I'm running against the crowd. I duck behind a snow cone stand and punch in 911 on my phone.
"Detective Sam Reeves here," I say, before the operator can say anything. "You getting calls on a shooter on the Burnside Bridge?"
"The screens are lit up," she says. "You down there?"
The crowd is dispersed around me now but people keep breaking away from hiding spots to run to what they think is a better one. Over to my right, an arrow to the back of the leg brings a heavyset woman down. She stumbles over the curb and lands face first onto the sidewalk. I look back toward the fountain but I don't see Mai.
"I'm here. Have the ambulances standby at Second and Ankeny until an officer clears them to come in. There are at least six victims in the market area and at least one up on the bridge."
"There are four on the bridge. Where are you? You armed?"
Damn. "Unarmed. I'm close to the foot of the stairs, the one connecting the bridge to the Saturday Market."
"Aaaaaghh!" A young man reaches feebly for an arrow that has punched through one side of his face and extended out the other. He spirals to the pavement, hitting his head with a sickening thump.
"Check. Our closest car is still a minute out."
I force myself to look away from the young man. "Uh, hold on." I peer around the corner of the stand to see the shooter aiming down in the direction of the street separating the Saturday Market from the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. I sprint about twenty feet to a stand selling incense. A bearded man sits behind the displays, an arrow protruding from his chest. His eyes are closed but he's breathing.
I hear sirens wailing from every direction. I take a deep breath, hold it in, and ease it out. "I … oh man. No no no."
"Reeves? Are you okay?"
About ten yards from my one o'clock … I think it's the young mother who tried to sell us weed. I'm sure of it. She's crumpled next to a helium tank and a huge bouquet of balloon animals bobbing in the slight breeze. An arrow protrudes from the back of her neck. "Where is the baby?"
"What baby, Reeves?"
Didn't know I said it out loud. I take another deep breath, try to hold it but I can't.
"I'm going up the stairs after him," I say. "Tell the responding cars I'm in the area. I'm wearing blue jeans and a black polo shirt. I'm going to pocket my cell right now but I'll keep it on."
"Check. Keep me updated."
"What are you going to do, Sam?"
I jerk around. "Mai, what the hell?" She's bent forward, breathing hard, her hands on her knees. "I told you to wait—"
"And you thought I would?"
"Damn-it, Mai. You …" What's the point? Never has she stayed behind when I've asked. Her nursing instincts kick in and she starts to move toward the man in the booth with the arrow in his chest. "No, no," I say grabbing her arm. "He's in the open. He got shot because he's in the open."
I quick-peek around the wall. Actually, the wall is nothing more than several colorful hanging scarves. An arrow would pass through it as easy as it cuts through the air. The shooter is facing this way now and he's loading an arrow into his bow. I pull my head back. I think he saw me.
I pull Mai around so she's squatting on my far side. "Follow me. I start duck walking toward the back of the booth.
An arrow rips through the scarves right where we had been standing and strikes the counter of a booth behind us, one selling Native American pottery.
"Keep moving," I say, still duck walking and keeping myself between Mai and the shooter. We stop at the back corner behind three trashcans, each with a metal lid and a ring handle in the center. The lids are only about thirty inches across but there is no time to be picky. I hand one to Mai. "Keep it in front of you like this, like a shield." She nods. "Come on. We need to move." We duck walk until we're near the front corner of the booth.
"Are we going up on top of the bridge, Sam?" No trace of fear in her voice.
I quick-peek around the wall. The shooter's back is to the railing and he's firing toward someone on the bridge. He extracts another arrow from the quiver, loads, and fires. He does it under five seconds. And now he is doing it again.
"Yes," I say. "Keep your shield in front of your head and chest," I lead the way in an all-out sprint toward the steps. I point toward the stairs. "Stop at the bottom."
Thump! Loud, metallic sounding.
"SHIT!" Mai shouts.
I crouch lower and look back. Mai has slowed and is staring at an arrow protruding through her lid where the pointy end has punched through about three inches, missing her face by no more than two.
"Don't stop, Mai," I shout, as another arrow bounces off the pavement to my left. "Run directly behind me and hold your shield out and away from your face."
SSSsssst. Another arrow rips through the air where Mai had been running next to me two seconds ago.
It's another fifteen yards to the base of the stairs, too far under the bridge for the shooter to see us.
SSSsssst Bam! Glass shatters behind us.
What the …
"He has a gun now!" Mai shouts.
"Oooow! Sam! I think—"
"I know. I got hit too. Keep going. It's pieces of pavement—the bullet hit off to our right."
We're at the landing. I look straight up and see the top of the shooter's compound bow. He must be leaning out to look for us. I extract my wallet, longish and made of black leather, and lean out so the man can see me. I thrust the wallet upward as if taking aim with a gun. He snaps his head back. Hopefully, he thinks I'm armed and will stay away from the stairs.
Mai looks at me. Are her eyes asking me why I don't have my weapon? She knows why but it's hard to have empathy when people are dying all around us. Looks to be at least fifty steps to the top with two turns and two landings. I can't see the top entryway to the bridge sidewalk. Not good.
I take Mai's shield and whack the arrow against the railing. The feather side breaks off and I wiggle the rest out. Nasty looking point, big and triangular shaped. "You okay?" I ask, handing the lid back. "I really want you to stay right here. This is police business."
"We need to get him," she says, her beautiful face tense with determination. "We waste time here."
"Mai, I'm unarmed. I have to go up because … I have to. I can't jeopardize your safety because I'm not carrying—"
"We are wasting time, Sam."
Damn-it! We're going to have to talk about this, but not now. "Okay. Stay behind me and keep your shield up. We'll go up each set of stairs fast, pause on the landing to look, then do the next set fast."
Sirens, approaching. Between the fountain and us, frightened people crouch behind whatever they can find for cover. Squirming bodies lay sprawled here and there, some motionless. What was filled with a moving sea of people is now virtually empty.
"Let's go," I say.
We spring up the first set of steps, about a dozen, and pause to look up. There's the entrance to the bridge. No Tonto aiming an arrow down at us. We sprint up the next set and pause on its landing. Still clear.
"One more," I say. "We'll pause short of the top access." Mai nods and we take off on the last leg. I stop about three steps short of the entrance and lean out far enough to see the bridge sidewalk and street with one eye.
"Oh-My-God," I breathe.