Cale Dixon and The Women of Cho (a rough chapter)

Women of Cho rough chapter

Won Jie returned home from the EvercleaR with no bad news to report and saw the stairwell door ajar. He paused to listen. He could hear his father quietly weeping and periodically sniffling while talking to the dead. Jie went to his room and changed out of his suit and into a hemp sleeveless coat and quietly descended the stairs.
Father was finishing up putting Chanyu’s hair clippings and finger nail clippings into five small silk pouches when Jie walked in the open door.
Father looked at him and nodded silently.
Jie walked over next to his father both staring blankly at Won Chanyu’s, cold, still and silent face.
Father turned and picked up a charcoal black wool suit coat. He handed it to Won Jie, “I want you to take your brother’s coat to the roof and call out his name three times as loud as you possibly can then bring the coat back here to be used as a covering of your brothers’ body. I also want to gather all of his clothes tomorrow morning so we can burn them.”
Jie bowed to his father then to his brother’s body before taking the coat and slowly and solemnly climbing the stairs to the top floor of his house. He stood at the top of the stairs somewhat bewildered; wondering which window would be appropriate to use to get on the roof. He looked down at the coat and with both hands hesitantly brought it to his face burying his nose in it smelling his brother for the last time. He could faintly identify his brothers’ musk cologne. Jie walked towards a window near a roof valley which had a fire escape and roof access where the satellite antennae wire came into the house. Jie opened the coat and inspected it and noticed the narrow slice whole where the blade of the Un Jangdo had penetrated the coat and his brothers’ back. He looked closely at the slice and rubbed the fabric between his fingers. The wool weave was tight and didn’t part along edge. Jie opened the window and climbed out on to the eave of the roof.
Father Won was bathing his son’s body in fragrantly perfumed water when he heard Won Jie through the vents, hallow spaces and chimney shoot yelling, “Won Chanyu!” three times from the roof top. It sounded numinous and far off as if calling from ‘the other side’. Tears again began to roll down Father’s face as he began drying off his son’s body.
Father reached for a wooden bowl and carved willow spoon and began feeding the corpse three spoonfuls of rice. With each spoonful he exclaimed, “One thousand bushels of rice! Two thousand bushes of rice!” Jie had returned from the roof top with the coat and chorused with his father, “Three thousand bushels of rice!” Father then retrieved a silk pouch with two sterile polished gold coins in it and carefully inserted them down the sides of his sons’ mouth bordering the rice. “Food and money will ease his journey to the next world.”
Jie bowed his head slightly respecting the traditions of yesterday watching his father move around to the far side of the body and retrieve the death robe that his wife had woven for the occasion, the suui. After Father and Jie dressed Won Chanyu, Won Jie held his brothers’ hands together while Father bound them tightly with hemp rope. Then Chanyu’s feet were tied.
They wrapped the body in a quilted cloth together and father explained, “We will tie your brother’s body again in seven places representing the seven stars of the constellation of the bear and considered lucky. We need all the luck we can get.” Father and Jie both spread grass over the bottom of the coffin then picked Chanyu’s body up and placed him in his coffin.
Father covered his dead son’s body with his coat Won Jie had taken to the roof. Father and Jie both placed more grass over and around the body before they silently fastened the lid. “He is passed his burial time. People cannot see him. I will stay with him tonight and I will need you to be with me for the next three days to receive guests.”
“I understand my Sang Ju father.” Jie bowed low to his father then turned to his dead brother’s coffin clasping his hands together in front of his face, bending at the waist and the knees simultaneously until his bow reached the ground. Won Jie bowed to his brother two and one half times and turned to leave.
“Won Jie.”
Won Jie stopped and turned, “Yes father?”
“You are now my oldest living son. You have been my right hand as I’ve entered old age. I am grateful for your abilities and overall loyalty to our family. But, there are some things I want to discuss with you before you go.”
“Yes father.”
“I wish to start off by saying that you remind me of myself when I was your age; hot headed, forceful, impatient, and determined. But we differ in one area – obedience. I never went against my father’s orders like you did. You went against my wishes and went after Rayman Stell without my permission and Lyin was killed because of it. You took matters into your own hands and now you must finish with your own hands. I cannot teach you much more, except this one very important lesson; you will be the one to tell Lyin’s wife that he is dead and why. It is your responsibility alone.”
“Yes father, I will make it right.”
Father scoffed at his son’s arrogant ignorance. “You cannot make it right because you cannot bring back the dead. I simply want you to be honest and tell her that your actions and your orders for Lyin were of your own making, not mine, not the Won nor the Cho; that you alone shoulder the blame and responsibility of his death . . . . You took advantage of his loyalty to Chanyu! You had no right ordering Lyin to do anything. He is not one of your servants or henchmen. You will pay for the shipping of Lyin’s body back to Seoul, his funeral arrangements and most importantly, pay for his family’s needs for the rest of their lives. You alone took him away from all of us, not the Stell’s, you, Won Jie, took him away. It is the honorable thing to do. Plus the fact that his wife is now cooking my dinner, I don’t want to worry about being poisoned in my own house!”
“Father . . . .”
Father’s body began to tremble and shake as his seething fury boiled over, “I warn you now my son; if you ever cross me again – I will drag your body across the Han river, passed Kimpo airport to the outskirts of Seoul and feed you to the crows myself. You will never reach the ‘other side’ in one piece! This is very serious. Do you understand me?”
Jie bowed deeply, his head remained down in shame diverting his eyes and affixing them to the stone floor. “Yes, I apologize. It will not happen again.”
“It cannot happen again. We must have order. You must follow my instructions or we break apart from within.” Father inhaled and sighed heavily staring intently at his son. Father turned and palmed the table with straight arms looking deeply into the wood of the coffin before him thoroughly disappointed. “Your brothers have never disobeyed my orders.”
Uncomfortable with the pause, Jie looked up, “Yes sir?” He stood slowly.
Father changed the subject and spoke as if all had been said, “Now – tell me about this detective you ran into at the museum.”
“Detective Dixon; he’s a research detective or at least that is what the curator at the Cho museum, Mr. Madison, told me when I inquired about Chanyu’s murder case. There was another detective originally, Detective Martin Hanna; I met him at the precinct and he escorted me to the morgue where I identified Chanyu’s body. He was real busy with other cases so the case went to Dixon who apparently was demoted to research then reinstated. Dixon and Hanna work out of a San Francisco precinct. I saw Dixon at the museum with the Un Jangdo in Madison’s waiting room, that’s how I knew it was out of lock up and called you. I later saw Dixon on the airport television at the Stell ranch house fire aftermath. On that same report I learned of Monica Stell’s existence and followed the reporters lead to Washington DC. Dixon was later found stabbed in the back at Monica Stell’s flat in Washington DC after we had left for the Dulles airport.”
“Did he follow you to Ms. Stell’s apartment?”
“That’s not possible. When Dixon was in Driggs Idaho I was at San Francisco International airport securing Chanyu’s transport to Seoul.”
“Hum. Good. Is the detective dead?”
“No; he was taken to the hospital in DC and his boss, Victoria Short, later joined him there.”
“So Dixon has figured it out and is following the crumbs of information. Find out what you can about detective Dixon and any others you think are potentially connected, the other detective, his boss, his girl friends, perhaps; anybody he would talk too. We cannot have information floating around loosely for the wrong people to find. Obviously our enemies are close. Whoever we are up against has been awakened with ears perked and weapons drawn by our actions. We need to stop the hemorrhaging of information and go back under ground before a confrontation arises and tares us apart like it did our ancestors.”
“Yes, father. But, as your oldest living son and head of security I think it prudent that you tell me who to suspect if you have names. Whatever information you can give me will help.”
“Suspect everyone with a long history. The information we are trying to keep down is old and has been passed down through generations. The only two that I know of that do not have long history are Mr. Bower and the Stell family, they are two generations into gathering information. We have twenty plus generations invested in the vaults. For now, I want you to concentrate on your brothers’ funeral and family security. After your brother is laid to rest, I want you to carefully analyze the paintings in the study and go back through the chronicles of our history and the Cho family history – before Yi; before Song-gye betrayed his country and started the Choseon Dynasty. The year was 1392 while the Mongol empire was fracturing due to power struggles between siblings for the election as the Great Khan and we, as a people, still paid forced homage, tribute, submission and allegiance. Your fresh eyes may see something I’ve looked at over and over and don’t see for what it really is.”
“Yes sir.”
Father covered the coffin with a red silk cloth, “There is one last order of business which, since you mentioned it, I want to talk with you about.”
“What’s that?” Jie watched his father patiently write in Chinese characters the word ‘CHUN’, meaning heaven, across the red silk.
“Tell me everything you know about Monica Won Cho Stell and leave nothing out.”

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