[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 076
Chapter 16 (2 of 10): Investigation
When they emerged from the warmth of the car they both wrapped their coats tightly around themselves. It had gotten quite cold, and a hefty wind was blowing down the street. They hurried into the restaurant, which was cozy and filled with interesting aromas. For early on a Monday evening it was already busy.
“Looks like you picked a good place,” Ulla said to Phoebe as they hung their coats in a public closet off the vestibule.
“Samuel – that’s my husband – and I eat here fairly often. The food is really very good, and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.”
The maître d’ knew Phoebe on sight. “Good evening, Detective,” he said. “Table for two tonight?”
“Thank you, Franklin. That would be good.”
He made a small bow. “This way, please.”
The women were seated at a corner table where they had a good view of the dining area. The restaurant was bright and cheery. The walls contained lots of light wood and the ceiling was a cupola affair that made the place seem a lot larger than it was. The place exuded a pleasant sense of relaxation. It was just what she needed, Ulla was thinking, after the heavy conversation in the car and the unpleasant task that awaited them after dinner. The perfect interlude.
They had anitpasto on ice and roasted peppers for appetizers. Ulla ordered the piccatta chicken, heavy on the capers, and Phoebe had Parmesan eggplant with clam sauce linguine. Crusty bread and real butter. No wine. Both drank club soda and had coffee without dessert. The talk was light and desultory, Phoebe reminiscing about her years on foot patrol when she first got started with the police department, and Ulla chiming in with her similar experiences doing foot patrols in central Stockholm and the increasingly violent subway system. As they headed further up into the residential area of Blaylock they both felt calm and composed, prepared for the first interview with the family of the Hsien woman.
“I know the area reasonably well,” Phoebe was saying, peering intently at the large homes set discreetly back from the street. “I think we’re going to hit a split ‘Y’ around the curve up here at the end of the next block. Take a left on Pine and then the second left again. That should be Sycamore Lane. It’s a cul-de-sac and I suspect number three is off the circular turn-around at the end.
Ulla took the right at the ‘Y’ and soon they were parked at 3 Sycamore Lane. It was a very large house, almost a mansion, and the place was brightly lit up. The driveway leading up to a four-car garage was neatly plowed, and the sidewalk to the front door had been shoveled with almost mathematical precision. Their shoes crunched on the deicing salt liberally sprinkled on the walk.
A young woman who was clearly Oriental answered the door when they rang the bell.
“Good evening,” Phoebe said. “I’m Detective Light,” she continued, showing the woman her badge, “and this is my partner, Detective Sundelius.” Ulla held up her badge, too. “I wonder if Mr. or Mrs. Hsien are available?”
The woman’s eyes grew very big and her hand had flown to her mouth.
“This is about Li Ming, isn’t it?” she said in a whisper.
“It is, yes,” Phoebe said gently. “I’m afraid it is.”
“Please, come in. I’ll get Dr. Hsien immediately.”
The two detectives were ushered into an entryway and shown to a room off to the left that was filled with ornate Chinese furniture and cabinets. Several beautiful scrolls with Chinese characters hung on two walls of the room.
While they were looking at these a voice behind them said, “Yes?”
They turned around. A tall gentleman probably in his early fifties was standing in the doorway, and right behind him stood a woman who was somewhat younger but almost as tall. Phoebe had once read somewhere that Chinese people do not like to touch strangers, so she did not offer to shake hands. Ulla followed suit.
“There is news of Li Ming?” the man said hopefully. He held the woman’s hand.
Phoebe and Ulla could both see the desperation and fear on their faces.
“We are not sure, sir,” Phoebe said. “We are interviewing some families who have reported young women missing.”
“Yes, our Li Ming … we reported her missing last … Monday.” The woman had stepped out from next to the man. Her English, like his, was without accent. They quickly exchanged words in what the detectives took to be Chinese. “No, I’m sorry,” the woman corrected herself, “it was last Tuesday. My husband just reminded me.” She shook her head. “It has been a terrible week.”
Then, as if suddenly realizing they were all standing, she said, “Please, please sit down. May we get you something to drink. Tea?”
“No, thank you, ma’am,” Phoebe answered. “We’ve just eaten.” Ulla silently agreed with a gesture of her head.
They all sat down.
Phoebe opened her small black valise. “If you would be willing, I have a picture that should make it clear if it is your daughter we have found.” Like the maid, the woman’s hand shot to her mouth and she gave a little gasp. The man’s eyes teared up but he said nothing. Phoebe handed the artist’s rendering of the dead woman’s face to Ulla, who was sitting closest to the parents. She handed it to the father.
He took it, gave a quick glance, and showed it to his wife. They both shook their heads. “No,” he said with great sadness, “that is not our Li Ming.” He paused. “I do not know if I should feel relief or not.”
His wife held the rendering in one hand and rubbed the surface lightly with the other. “She is so young,” she said softly. “And so beautiful.” She began to cry. “I hope she will soon be reunited with her parents.”
Ulla and Phoebe glanced at each other but kept quiet.
TO BE CONTINUED