Naked Moon

Naked Moon by Domenic Stansberry Read Free Book Online

Book: Naked Moon by Domenic Stansberry Read Free Book Online
Authors: Domenic Stansberry
Tags: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Hard-Boiled
earnest, the little boy on the street, on the stoop, in the foreign country, in over his head.
    â€œJust give them what they want,” Gary said.


    A chicken could not cluck in Portsmouth Square, a fish could not whisper, without the sound carrying into the chambers of Love Wu, atop the Empress Building. Or this was the saying of the old men playing mah-jongg on the stone benches in the square.
    The Empress was not on the square itself, but on the rise, a block back, and the sound carried to the upper stories. The building was not in itself impressive, seven stories high, built with brick, then covered with deteriorating stucco on the upper layers. At the top it had been corniced in the fashion of a pagoda, though this facade, too, was in partial disrepair.
    On the street level, the building housed the ubiquitous vegetable parlors and junk palaces of Chinatown, stalls crammed with cheap luggage and cheaper produce. Above that stood the offices of the Wu Benevolent Association—andon the top floor, or so it was said, the chambers of Love Wu himself.
    Love Wu, the perverse, the ancient one, ruler of the hidden kingdom.
    Father of Chinatown, to whom the wind carried every sound. Founder of the Wu Benevolent Association, the oldest of the Chinese associations.
    You could not breathe, you could not whisper, without Love Wu knowing.
    The benevolent associations were old institutions in Chinatown, offering help to newcomers, aid to the indigent, business ties. Older still were the tongs: secret societies with their roots in the Chinese underworld. The lines between the tongs and the associations were not always clear, even now. Both went back to the time when the Chinese clipper ships had anchored by night in the fog off the Golden Gate, and the smugglers brought their longboats up to the wharf in the small hours, carrying cargo for the opium dens, women for the brothels. They brought indentured labor for the railroads, to hoe the fields and clean the toilets. Men to dig the basement tunnels that extended beneath Chinatown and spiraled out into the city. But the contraband had gone both ways. If a local strayed too close to the wharf at night, stood too long on a street corner, that person—man, woman or child—might find themselves bound and gagged, facedown in a Chinese longboat. Headed out to those clippers in the fog.
    A white slave.
    A galley mate for life. A concubine. A child for the delight of Oriental perversions.
    Love Wu had been around since the time of the tunnels, it was said, though that would make him impossibly old. The stories about him were contradictory, his birth date a matter of conjecture. The streets were full of his relations—sons, nieces, granddaughters, cousins. But as these relations grew old and passed into the grave, Love Wu remained.
    He had died long ago. He was not one man, but many. In fact, Love Wu was not a man at all but a title given to a man: a designation passed along from one dying kinsman to the next.
    Love Wu had not died. Rather he had returned to China. He lived in a monastery in Sonoma. He was the old beggar you saw every day on the corner, wandering the streets in disguise.
    He still lived on the top floor of the Empress Building, in the upper story, above the manifold operations of the Wu Benevolent Association. His chambers opened onto the balcony at the top of the building, and sometimes at night his shadow could be seen moving in the yellow light that issued from those slatted doors.
    He dwelled in his library there, among the ancient scrolls, listening to the secrets drift up from the street. There were stories about his library, and the information recorded there.
    Dante had seen him once, years ago. Or rather he had heard the name, Love Wu, issue through the crowd, and seen an old Chinaman in silk garments and braided hair being escorted across the street like some dignitary.
    Back hunched, infirm.
    The Italians joked, every

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