She’s trouble. That was Luke’s first thought when he stood up and shook Miss Hardison’s hand. He couldn’t tell where it came from. Maybe it was the way her eyes looked, too innocent. He put away the thought and asked, “How can we help you?”
Miss Hardison blinked her doe-like eyes. “I need your help. I have a sister. She’s very young and innocent, completely unworldly. Recently a man called Lucas Jamieson started pursuing her. However, the guy was extremely secretive and I saw him hanging out with some really shady people. I’m not sure about the guy, so I would like you to find out more about him. I mean. “ She leaned forward, “I don’t want her to be used.”
“Of course we can help,” Danny said with a bright smile. Luke glared at him. Danny was always a chivalric idiot.
“What do you know about this guy?” Luke asked.
Miss Hardison gave them a photo, an address and a licence plate number. She signed the check without looking at the number, which Luke took as a good sign. He was still hesitated about the case but their account was deep enough in red that he couldn’t reject a paying client.
Luke looked at the clock one more time and glanced at Danny’s empty desk. Danny had volunteered to tail the target, but Luke hadn’t heard from him ever since. What’s happened?
The phone rang. Luke answered the call, “Heroes for Hire. Luke Cage speaking.”
“This is Metro General. Danny Rand has been shot and sent into our hospital. As you’re listed as next of kin...”
“Where’s he now?” Luke asked.
“He’s in the surgery.”
Luke threw the phone down, rushed out of the office and took a cab to the hospital.
At the hospital, He reached for the public phone and called Misty. He dreaded making the call, but Misty had a right to know it right from his mouth, not from the news or the police.
“Misty Knight.” Misty’s voice transmitted through the phone.
Luke told her about the news, and added, “Don’t worry. He’s under efficient hands.”
“Are you all right?” Misty asked worriedly.
“Of course I’m all right,” Luke said. I ‘m not the one being shot here, Luke thought.
“Take care of yourself too. Don’t blame yourself so hard for it. Danny won’t like it.” Misty paused. “Call me if I can help. I really want to find the bastard.”
“Me too.” Luke said with emotion. He told Misty where Danny was and then hung up the call.
Luke arrived at the Metro General and saw Night Nurse. She walked to him and said, “Danny’s still in the surgery. But don’t worry. He’s tough.” Luke might not be hiding his emotion so well after all.
“The bullet missed his major organs, thankfully. But the doctor in charge said there’s high risk of the bullet damaging the blood vessels.”
Luke waited outside the surgery for hours. He felt that it was one of the hardest time to wait. Finally the doctor came and said, “Are you Mr. Cage?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Mr Rand was still in danger. But his vital signs were stabilizing. We ‘re optimistic of the outlook.”
“Thanks. Can I see him?”
“Go and see him. He is still in a coma but I’m sure he’ll be glad if he know you’re here.”
“Thank you.” Luke said and entered the ward. The ward was full of the unnatural smell of antiseptics. Danny lied on a bed nearest to the window and sunlight shone on his pale face. He looked so still that it seemed abnormal. Danny should not be still and pale. He should be energetic, cheerful and lively. Luke carefully put a hand over Danny’s hand not connected to the IV. The machine beeped in the background. He leaned to Danny and said quietly, not wanting to wake others , “I ‘ll find the one who do it. He’ll pay.”
Luke left the hospital. The sunlight was strong enough to hurt.
Back to the office, Luke couldn’t help but glanced at Danny’s now empty desk. There was an unwashed tea cup on it. Danny had poured a cup of tea to drink earlier and didn’t thought of leaving the cup in the sink. Luke took the cup, washed it, and put it back into the usual location. Danny’s addiction to tea was part of his heritage, and he was picky about the type of tea leaves and the water to be used. He once had spent an hour talking about his quest to find good water in New York, when Luke grunted and acted annoyed. He would really want Danny here now, behaving in his usual dorky way. He shrugged his head and tried to concentrate on his work, then there was a knock again.
“Come in.” Luke said. He hoped it wasn’t a client. He wasn’t in the mood.
A woman came into the room and took out a shield. “Detective Ramírez-Arellano, Homicide squad, NYPD.”
Luke’s heart skipped a beat, “What did I do to deserve such honour?”
Detective Ramírez-Arellano said, “I came for the shooting of your partner, Danny Rand.”
Though he had heard the news, Luke still found it unbelievable. They had gone through so many things, and Danny came out all right. Now he was gunned down by a thug. It’s ridiculous. “I heard it from the hospital.”
“Good. A cop found him inside his car when she came to write him a ticket. There were no witnesses. Did you know of any business conflict, nasty clients, or receive any previous threat?”
Luke couldn’t help but thought of their previous encounter with the seedy segment. Determining whom It could be would be like finding a needle in the hay. “Nothing particularly springs to my mind.”
“Do you know why he was there in the first place?”
“He was tailing a target for a case.”
“What is the name?”
“Who’s your client?”
“I’ve a right not to tell you.”
“Playing tough, right? Fine. Good bye, Mr Cage.” Detective Ramírez-Arellano left with a cold glance.
The next day Luke read the news and so far found no mention of Danny. He was about to make some calls when the door was opened again.
From the hallway came Detective Ramírez-Arellano again.
“What wind brought you here again?” Luke asked.
Detective Ramírez-Arellano asked with steel in her voice, “Where were you last day?”
“Hanging out. Doing my business. What? Is it a crime now?”
“”We found Lucas Jamieson,” Detective Ramírez-Arellano said, staring at him as if she had wanted to see through him.
“So? Did he say anything?”
“He couldn’t, because he was dead.”
“How’s it my business?”
“We believe that he was probably the one who shot your partner.” She raised her chin. “It ‘s possible that you were angry for your partner and you found him before us. He was quite a piece of work and you argued. Then...”
“I think you should go to be a writer if you have such a good imagination.”
“Thanks, but I like my main job better. So do you have a witness?”
“I visited Danny in hospital and went straight here. All by my lonesome.”
“Then you don’t have much of an alibi. You could go straight here from the hospital to where he died.”
“It assumed that I knew where he was and that the guy didn’t leave town immediately. It is ridiculous.”
“Maybe, but it’s a good theory. Stay in the town. We may need to find you again.”
“Screw you.” Luke sad hotly.
“Goodbye Mr Cage,” Detective Ramírez-Arellano said, and left the office.
Luke leaned to the seat. That was great, with the history repeating again. His friend was in hospital struggling for his life and the damn police suspected him of it. It would be laughable, but from his bitter experience he knew how corrupted the judiciary system of US can be. Now not only did he need to avenge his friend, but also he needed to clear his name. It wouldn’t be easy.
The first clue he should follow was his client. It was a bit suspicious that Danny and the one he followed were both shot. Luke read books. He put on a coat and decided to follow the address left by his client. Just then the door was knocked again.
It must be the detective again. Luke tensed, stood up and ready to open the door. The door was bang open and nearly hit Luke. An unfamiliar man walked into the office.
“Who are you? Today we’re not open for business. Come another day or leave a message,” Luke said.
“Touchy. I have to admit I am in a bit... urgency. But would you sit and let us talk like the adults we are? Let me introduce myself. I am Carlos. ”
Lu returned to his desk and remained standing. “You can start. I may listen.”
“Have you heard a thing called Cat’s Eye?” the man said with a smile.
“Never heard of it.”
“Reliable sources tell me that it’s in New York and I will pay you $5000 if you can retrieve it.”
“This’s a huge sum of money.”
“In fact, I can do it better,” the man said, pulling out a gun and pointing it at Luke. “Hands up. Let me search you for the Eye.”
Luke slowly raised his hands, and when Carlos started to relax, Luke caught the gun arm and knocked him on the table. They wrestled for a bit, but then Luke took the gun and used its butt to hit the man’s head.
When the man was knocked unconscious, Luke put the gun in the drawer, and took out a rope to tie him up. He searched his body and got a wallet and bullets. A driving licence in his wallet showed the man’s picture and gave a name as Carlos. He put them aside, poured a glass of water and threw it on the man. Carlos woke up and cursed loudly.
“Who send you here?”
“You’ll be really sorry.” Carlos spat.
“I’ve heard it many times, and I’m still here,” Luke kicked him and said, “Talk, or...”
At this time someone knocked the door again. Luke cursed. Why do so many people knock at my office door when it’s least wanted?” The door was open again. Miss Hardison walked in and paused..
“Mr. Cage, I come.., Oh.” She looked at the man tied up. “I’m not expected to see you.”
“You...” the man started to say.
Luke kicked him on the mouth. “Be nice.”
“G’s finding you and me, and don’t think you will be spared.” Carlos said.
Miss Hardison asked, “G’s looking for both of us? Wait, how can you find here?”
“Of course I tracked you from the beginning. You think you are being sneaky?”
Miss Hardison’s face turned red and pale subsequently. She said, “I need to go now. “Just when she was leaving, Luke interrupted, “Who’s this G you’re talking about?”
Luke saw that the two people shared a meaningful look. The man said, “You’ll be scared if I tell you who G is.”
“And your’re the one being tied up, not me.” Luke said.
The man shot a hateful glance at Luke, then he said, ” Check it out for yourself, if you dare.”
Luke stared at Miss Hardison. She nodded. “It’s the right one.” Then she left. Luke debated whether to follow her, but he decided the man here was a bigger threat. “What can you tell me?”
“Don’t believe the woman. She’s a crook and you’ll be a fool if you fall for her.”
“Thanks for your meaningful advice, but no thanks.” Luke said. Deciding that the man had no use for him anymore, he opened the door, looked at the corridor to be sure that there was no one, pulled the man up by his his neck, threw him in the storage room nearby and closed the door,
He could vaguely hear the man protesting from inside.
He returned to lock the office door and got on the street. A conspicuous black car drove by and stopped. The driver lowered the window, “Mr. Gutman is looking for you.”
“Come, come. Mr Cage, please take a seat. I am Caper Gutman. This is Wilmer. He’s like my son. We don’t have any secret,” an obesed man said. A young man stood side by side with him. Luke examined the young man. He was definitely packing heat.
Luke looked around. It was a house that reeked of money and the design matched well with Gutman, whom Luke supposed was the owner of this house. He asked, “Why do you bring me here, Mr Gutman?”
“For business. I assume that the Cat’s Eye’s now in you possession. I can pay you a handsome sum for it,” Mr. Gutman said
“I see.” Luke decided to play along to see what he can get. “I can sell it to you, no problem, but I need to know why you all want to get it so much.”
“Story time, right. Have a drink first.” Mr. Gutman signalled the young man to pour a glass of drink for Luke, and looked at him expectantly. Luke drunk the whole glass.”Great. I like people who’re like you. The Cat’s Eye has a very long history. Very beautifully made, very precious. Owned by many powerful men. It is said to be cursed, but of course we don’t believe such superstition in this time.” Mr Gutman said with a laugh. “Recently I knew that it fell into a Mr. Olson’s hands. I tried to buy from him, but he’s very stubborn. So I hired Carlos, Jamieson and Miss Hardy as my agents to get it. Jamieson and Miss Hardy presumably got it, but they were not very honest with me. Therefore here we are.”
So Miss Hardison is not the real name of my client. “What can I get if I help you?”
“$100000, in cash and no tax.” Mr. Gutman continued, “The police are suspecting you, right? I have some pull with the police and can quiet it down. If not,...” he smirked.
This damn Gutman is blackmailing me. Luke thought. He asked, “So it’s the deal.”
He found his hand started to shake and felt dizzy. The images of the world started to turn. The glass fell out of his hands and his last thought was. “I must be drugged.”
Luke woke up and found himself in his office again, and wasn’t surprised to find the office ransacked. He tidied up things and salvaged what he could. Then he returned home.
At home, Luke was ready to take a shower when he heard a sound from outside. He went to the window and saw it was open and a figure in black stood inside.
“Black Cat,” the figure said. Her voice sounded familiar.
“Why’re you here?”
“I’m sorry for your partner. Miss Hardison’s my business associate and I’d have told her not to go to you if I knew the trouble beforehand.”
“So talk. I don’t have much patience for you masked freaks.”
“Well, I guessed I’d have started from the beginning. G found Carlos, Jamison, and me through Hardison to steal the Cat’s Eye for him, but when I stole it, I found that he misdirected me a lot. I don’t like it and I want to know why. “
“Why do you send us to follow Jamieson?” Luke decided not to show that he knew Miss Hardison’s real surname.
“He’s been pestering me and Hardison. It’s been tiring. So I want you to give some pressure to him. I don’t expect anyone to get hurt. I swear I ‘ve nothing to do with your partner’s shooting. I ‘m too smart to make you my enemy.”
Luke asked, “Why do I need to believe you?”
“Well, Thief’s honour? To show my good will, I can tell you where Cat’s Eye is. It’s with me all the time. She pulled out a shiny ornament from a pocket. It looked expensive.
Luke thought for a moment. He didn’t trust Black Cat, but he heard that Black Cat didn’t kill and minimize her harm to a minimum. It’s probable that she’s telling the truth if she said she’d nothing to do with Danny’s shooting. Besides, she could be useful.
“All right, I have a plan...”
“You had the Cats’ Eyes now?” Carlos and Gutman’s eyes brightened. They came to Luke’s office when Luke called them and said that he had Cat’s Eye here.
“Before I gave it to you, I want to settle my partner’s and Jamieson’s case once for all. Who shot them?”
“I sent Wilmer to persuade Jamieson to give Miss Hardy up, but he was a bit too stubborn and Wilmer wasn’t very patient.” Mr. Gutman said.
Luke said, “All right, we can dump these two cases on Wilmer. Then the police will be satisfied.”
“It’s a ridiculous suggestion, as I see Wilmer as my son.” Gutman laughed nervously and glanced at Wilmer, who had a deadly glare on Luke
“Don’t try to do anything funny with me.” Wilmer said, “and I didn’t shoot your partner.”
Luke said, “It’s not important. The police won’t care if they can kill two birds with one stone.”
“Perhaps we should pick Carlos here.” Wilmer said coolly, “He’s a good choice too.”
“We shouldn’t be arguing. We’re partners, right?” Gutman asked.
“Either Carlos or Wilmer should go. That’s my point. I don’t care who will take the heat.”
“We’ll need to discuss a new proposal. “ Gutman said, “But by the way, where’s the Eye?”
Luke said, “Give the man first. don’t trust you enough. What if you betray the deal?”
“You’re not very trustful.”
“I’m not born yesterday,” Luke said.
“Why don’t we get him now?” Wilmer asked.
Luke said patiently as if he were talking to a child “Because I will only tell you the location when I’m alive and voluntarily. You can’t get it any other way.”
“All right. See you tomorrow then.” Gutman laughed. Then he left the office, followed by Wilmer and Carlos.
Luke waited until the sound of their steps disappeared along the corridor. Then he took the cassette recorder from his drawer and stop the recording. He listened to it and played it to the part of Gutman admitting Wilmer’s guilt.
He made a phone call. It was soon answered. “Detective Ramírez-Arellano speaking.”
“Listen, I want you to hear something.” He played the part of confession to Detective Ramírez-Arellano.
“Thanks. Where can we find them?”
Luke told an address. It was the address of the house Luke was brought to, given by Black Cat.
Detective Ramírez-Arellano told Luke, “Thanks for your cooperation with police. We will follow up the lead.”
“You’d better be ” Luke grunted, then he ended the call.
The next day, Luke received a phone call. “Luke speaking.”
“You should be here,” Black Cat said, “It’s exciting.”
“The bad guys fought among themselves. Both Wilmer and Carlos pulled a gun when the police rushed in. Later I heard from the contact that the police believed that Carlos’ gun shot Danny. They were all detained on charges of murder.”
“Thanks for telling me.”
“Not at all, See you later.” She then hung up the phone.
Luke walked to the hospital and went to Danny’s ward. His heart sunk when he found that Danny’s bed was empty.
He grabbed a nurse. “What’s happened?” Does anything happen to him? No, there should be a call but... Do I miss out something?”
The nurse squirmed and pointed outside the ward. “The patient was already discharged. It’s really a miracle that he healed so fast..”
Luke didn’t have the patience to hear anymore and released his grip. “Thank you,” he said. He walked out of the hospital and phoned Danny. Danny answered the phone very soon. “Hi, Luke, do you miss me?” Danny asked cheerfully.
This guy... Luke said to the phone, “Not much,” he couldn’t help but continued, “How come you ‘re discharged so early?”
“The wound is serious, but I heal myself with my chi.” Danny said with the same upbeat tone.
“It’s sure convenient.” Luke said. He felt that a weight had been lifted from his heart.
“Let’s have pizza together, me and you and Misty and Colleen, and you can tell me what happened during the time I was in the hospital,” Danny said.
“Fine.” Luke said. He went to their favourite pizza outlet. There’s many thing to catch up.