CHAPTER SEVEN CRUSADE
“Tell me about him,” Jazz said, sitting back in the chair.
Hsu stretched his long legs out in front of him and leaned his head into his braided hands. “A few hundred years ago, groups emerged that helped villagers in their respective provinces. Later, some members became political; other’s became trained assassins.” Now, Hsu had her full attention.
“The society went underground after the communists came to power in World War II. I am a member of one faction. We fight for human rights, working inconspicuously to implement changes. A few of us have infiltrated the government. Most support a more democratic form of government free of control by those who manipulate world policy. Many of my associates have suffered imprisonment and torture; others death.”
“Minsheng is the man who is missing. His name means “voice of the people.” He comes from a long line of secret society members. His father died when he was a young child. Because his mother could not afford school, Minsheng sat outside classrooms listening to the teachers. Eventually, he became an attorney, and helped many people win legal battles against human rights violations. Almost a year ago, he was reported missing. He has given up much, including his wife and son who now live in America. This is the man we want you to find.” Hsu awaited her response.
“Do you have a picture of him?” Minsheng sounded like a selfless, honorable man who had surrendered so much for others. Jazz had never made that level of sacrifice and wondered if she could.
Hsu rummaged through a drawer in his desk, found a photo of Minsheng, and handed it to Jazz. The man stood in front of a window flashing a wide, teasing smirk. He looked about 50, slender, black hair, not very tall. Something in his smile made Jazz think he’d retain his playfulness no matter the strain he was under.
“Let me see what I come up with.” Jazz laid her head back and relaxed while creating a vivid image of Minsheng in her mind. Soon, she found herself in a dank room. Minsheng was on the floor, leaning against a mud wall. There was no bed, no furniture. His cheekbones protruded sharply from his face, and his eye sockets were deep and dark. Minsheng’s bare feet stuck out from the ragged cuffs of his pants. His clothing looked worn and dirty.
A noxious smell drifted up from a hole in the floor near him. Strips of light seeped through a steel, grated hatch overhead. Jazz heard shuffling above her. The hatch opened. A platter of food attached to ropes, descended into the cavern, swinging and clanking against the wall. Minsheng didn’t lift his eyes or move toward the food.
Jazz studied him. He wasn’t asleep, only resigned as if in a trance he’d wake from once released. She returned her focus to the chamber, then described what she saw.
“I am happy to learn my friend is alive. How was he?”
“He was thin, maybe malnourished. I’ll return to him again to figure out where he is. Now, I need to eat. Remote viewing uses a lot of energy.”
Jazz walked to the dining hall as the gong bellowed, announcing breakfast, and took a seat at the low table. Balancing the chopsticks in her fingers, she skillfully lifted the steamed rice to her mouth. The meal ended with the final chant and she drank the water left in the bowl.
She went to the garden and sank onto the grass. Yan was leaning over, pulling weeds at the base of fragrant jasmine climbing a trellised wall. Yan glanced at Jazz. “You okay?”
“Yes, I just need to rest.”
Jazz rolled onto her side, head cushioned on her arm, watching Yan’s slow deliberate movements. Yan could be quiet indefinitely, never compelled to make small talk or keep a conversation going. Jazz became lost in the chirps of a cluster of wrens, flying swiftly from branch to branch, and drifted into sleep. When Yan came over and sat cross-legged beside her, Jazz woke from her nap.
“Where does your family live, Yan?”
“They live in San Francisco. You know this place?”
“Yes, that’s a vibrant city on the West Coast. Many Chinese live there. Part of San Francisco is called China Town. What do your parents do?”
“My mother schoolteacher. My father engineer. He go to America first. Mother go next year.” Yan glowed with pride.
“How were they able to stay there?”
“That long story. Mother pregnant in America. China government say she must have abortion. She refuse. America give asylum.”
Jazz was surprised China would dictate what Yan’s parents did in the States. It made her proud that the U.S. granted them asylum.
Hsu strolled toward them from the other side of the garden, his robe flowing around him. He lowered himself beside Yan and placed his body in the lotus position.
“I’ll come to your chamber tomorrow to look in on your friend again,” Jazz told him.
In the morning, Jazz woke and headed to the courtyard to view the sunrise, waiting in anticipation for the curtains to rise and the show to begin. She’d taken up the monk’s habit of waking early to revel in the dawn of a new day. Later, she joined the zazen, then it was time to eat.
After breakfast, Jazz walked across the courtyard toward Hsu’s room. Searching for new flower blossoms had become a pleasant ritual. She leaned toward an unfolding pink hibiscus to inhale the sweet aroma, overpowered by nearby lavender. The immaculate gardens were free of weeds, the plants huge and full of vigor. Jazz continued along the cobbled path that ended at the sleeping quarters. She went down the narrow hall and knocked on Hsu’s door. He peered under the arched frame, signaling her to enter with a gracious bow.
“It should be easier to return to your friend now that I’ve been there. If I concentrate on the opening above the room he’s in, I can view the surrounding area, and hopefully see something that reveals his location.”
Jazz closed her eyes, visualizing Minsheng in the cell. At once she found herself next to him, then focused on the opening. Within seconds, she was outside the tiny room and inside a prison. Guard towers rose above tall fencing draped with spiral rolls of barbwire along the top. Three modest, one-story wooden buildings under tin roofs stood in a row in the center of the prison. There was no vegetation inside the fence and the ground was dusty earth.
The prison lay near the bank of a lake. To the north a waterfall cascaded into a stream that flowed over flat, terraced rocks. Closer to her a white arched bridge traversed a side tributary with a narrow multi-level building at the end of the bridge. Centered in the background was a steep, jagged, snowcapped mountain. Jazz memorized the setting before she directed her attention to Hsu’s chamber.
After describing the lake, bridge, and waterfall, she mentioned the flat rocks in the stream. Hsu sat up straight. “That is southeast of here about 80 kilometers, still in this province. The flat rocks create a staircase to the waterfall. I visited this place as a child with my parents. I must tell my colleagues, so we can decide what to do. Thank you.”
“I’m happy to help.” Jazz hesitated before asking, “Yan explained how she came to live at the monastery. Was that because of the one-child policy?”
“Yes. Yan’s mother is my sister. She loved Yan and struggled with leaving her here, but did it to save Yan’s life. My sister hid her pregnancy knowing the government would force her to have an abortion. She left Yan in my care when she was one month old.” Hsu paused. “There are many people opposed to this policy. The government is becoming more lenient, but they have forced women to abort full-term babies, have unsafe sterilizations, and IUD implants.”
“How could anyone be that cruel?”
“In life it is not necessarily good against evil, so much as ignorance versus wisdom.” Hsu shook his head as if he too were trying to understand. “Our government is recognizing that the one-child policy has reduced the workforce and created a gender imbalance. Chinese people often value a son over a daughter. The son has the duty of taking care of the parents in their old age and carrying on the family name. Baby girls often end up in an orphanage or have gone missing, others adopted, and taken out of China. We hope the population control will end. It has been nothing short of infanticide.”
“I want to help Yan join her parents.” Jazz was more determined than ever. “She told me she’d get papers soon. If she’s able to leave China and get to the U.S., how can she stay there?”
“My sister has documents that prove she is her daughter. Once Yan gets to America, she will help Yan go through the asylum process.”
“How would Yan leave China?”
“We have contacts along a route we use, but we must be very careful.”
Jazz wanted to go with Yan unless that meant putting her in more danger. She asked what had been plaguing her: “Hsu, remember you said I’m in danger here and in the U.S.? What did you mean when you said people would stop at nothing to maintain their plan?”
“The Elite are a malady that force their influence around the world. They work within governments, military, your CIA, and elsewhere, to manipulate for their own purposes. There is a schism growing between their factions due to different goals. One faction is in favor of population control, and has been a driving force in China’s policy.”
Hsu spoke guardedly, “I mentioned our secret society and its splinter groups. One offshoot comprises assassins who threatened the Elite. This stopped the Elite from introducing a fatal race-specific disease into China. You said the CIA hired you to name their targets and find the assassins. You would be in danger if the Elite, the CIA, or the assassins think you are working against them. This is a war you are caught in the middle of, I am afraid.”
“I don’t support the work of assassins or the Elite, Hsu.” She had to clarify that she wouldn’t assist either of them.
“My associates are pacifists who make progress through peaceful measures. The CIA or the Elite may have suspected that Jian contacted you to aid the assassins, but we have distanced ourselves, and are not affiliated with them in any way. Buddhists do not take life.”
Ingenuously, Jazz had put herself right in the middle of this “war,” as Hsu called it. Things were getting more complicated than she ever imagined--and dangerous. She grabbed her stomach when it quaked. All the players had motive to erase my memory. Was it the Elite, the assassins, or even the CIA? She needed to name her enemy before jumping back into the fire.
Hsu stood, stating he needed to speak to his colleagues.
Jazz excused herself and went to her chamber. The sound of monks chanting flowed to her room, soothing her, taking her away from reality, away from problems. Floating in the melody, she thought of the night Aidan held her, gently rocking her until she fell asleep, safe in his arms. Their bodies entwined, cuddling close. Jazz’s distrust vanished in that moment because he gave her exactly what she needed. Deep in the memory of his arms around her, the veil lifted, like haze burnt off by the sun. Aidan sat at the desk near his living room, staring at the screen on his laptop, reading his email.
Jazz decided to try a different method of contact, something she’d never attempted, called a “phase-four stage-nine” viewing. A few people in her remote-viewing group had tried it, with no success; no one had ever progressed past stage five. It was only a theory, as far as she knew.
It took tremendous focus and energy to direct her hand to his laptop. Finally, her fingers reached through an invisible barrier toward the keys. She forced her pointer finger onto the letter j, but nothing happened. Exhausted, she returned her awareness to the chamber bed where she at once fell into a deep sleep.
The sound of the evening gong woke her. Jazz rose from bed and splashed water on her face and bald head. Thick rock walls surrounded this part of the monastery. The entrance was gated and locked. She was safe. She could let her hair grow out. Despite her exercise to become free of her ego, she loved long hair. In her mind’s eye, she still saw herself with long, wavy auburn hair. She missed it, but was ashamed to admit her attachment. The monks would never be attached to anything that superficial. I’m going to let it grow out, she decided.
After entering the dining hall, she lowered herself to the mat by Yan. Jazz smiled to herself. Yan had to be the most unpretentious person she’d ever met. Jazz chanted while receiving the portion to end evil in the largest bowl, the portion to cultivate good in the next, and the portion to free all beings in the smallest. Fresh vegetables, fruits, and spices from the gardens comprised much of the vegetarian meals. The revered chef was a marvel to watch as he created exquisite dishes, moving around his kitchen in an organized dance.
At the end of the meal, everyone rinsed the bowls. Jazz joined in, chanting the words that meant: “the water we use to wash our bowls tastes like ambrosia”, then drank.
Outside the hall, Yan turned to Jazz. “I get papers today!”
“That’s great,” Jazz replied, wondering how life in America might change Yan. At the least, going to America would be a tremendous culture shock. “Maybe we can go together,” added Jazz.
“Yes,” Yan exhaled the word with relief.
“I’ll tell you about America so you’re prepared, okay?”
“Maybe we should grow our hair out.”
“I have hair.”
Jazz crinkled her nose. She didn’t understand.
“Come, I show you.”
In her room, Yan pulled a tattered, round box from under the bed and took out a black wig.
“Will you put it on?” Jazz asked.
Yan adjusted the wig and turned to show Jazz.
“Wow, very stylish.”
Yan leaned over to look in the mirror, chuckling softly.
She is so cute, with her big brown eyes, high cheekbones, and absolutely no fat on her body. “You’re a beautiful woman.”
Yan stared at her image again trying to see herself as Jazz saw her.
That night, Jazz fought to still her rushing thoughts. She slept off and on for hours, troubled by how to get Yan to the States, and how to help rescue Hsu’s friend. Eventually, she practiced Hsu’s hypnosis relaxation routine, and woke hours later with the sun shining through the window.
Jazz washed, using the basin, missing her small but adequate shower at home. She donned the monk robe and left for the meditation hall. Inside, she sat on the mat, twisting her body into the lotus position. Her breathing became deep and rhythmic. An hour later she stood, stretched, and went to eat.
She took a seat between Hsu and Yan, chanting and bowing in time with the monks. Everyone turned in unison when they heard shouting. Two muscular police officers carrying rifles entered the dining chamber, a monk nervously following behind trying to stop them.
Yan and Jazz instinctively hunched their shoulders and lowered their heads. The officers walked toward them and the women froze. An agent conversed with Hsu in a stern voice. Jazz couldn’t understand what he said. She glanced at Yan, raising her eyebrows. Yan had a shocked expression and merely shook her head a little. Hsu did not resist while they ushered him away.
“They want to question Hsu,” Yan whispered.
Yan shrugged. “Man say it direct order from Deputy Commander.”