[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 077
Chapter 16 (3 of 10): Investigation
“I think she is probably … dead,” her husband said. “Otherwise I do not think the detectives would be here with pictures, Mei,” he said to her and put his arm around her shoulder.
“Yes, yes,” she nodded, “I see what you mean.” Her eyes questioned the detectives.
“I’m afraid your husband is right,” Ulla said slowly. “This young woman is … is dead.”
“Oh, how dreadful,” the mother said. “It is unthinkable.” She stared at the picture. “I am ashamed to be happy, for it gives us hope that Li Ming will come back to us.” Shaking her head, she handed the drawing back to her husband, who gave it to Ulla.
Phoebe stuck it back in her black bag. “I’m very sorry that your daughter has not been found yet, Mrs. Hsien,” she said.
“But you are looking?”
Phoebe decided to be honest. “I wish it were that simple, ma’am,” she said, her voice low. “Since the beginning of December we have had forty-eight reports of missing people. We do what we can, and we hope. If there is any news, any news at all, I assure you that the police will let you know immediately.”
Mrs. Hsien acknowledged Phoebe’s words with a sad look. “Yes. It is a strange world we live in, is it not?” She turned to her husband and spoke a few words in Chinese. He looked at his wife wordlessly and gave her shoulder a squeeze.
Ulla and Phoebe got up.
“Thank you very much for your time, Dr. Hsien, Mrs. Hsien. We apologize for intruding. And we extend our heartfelt sympathy for your loss. We hope Li Ming will soon return.”
Mrs. Hsien came forward. “Thank you, detective,” she said. “You are very kind. I am sorry you have such a job, asking parents about dead and missing children. It is a horrible job.”
Taking Phoebe utterly by surprise, Mrs. Hsien came close to her and gave her a hug, resting her head for a brief moment on Phoebe’s shoulder. “I can see in your eyes that you care. That is a good thing. I hope the parents of this poor child are strong.” She patted the valise, and held Phoebe at arms length before disengaging herself. Then she hugged Ulla.
“Yes,” Dr. Hsien agreed, a grave look on his face. “They must be strong.” Then he shook hands with both detectives. “Thank you for coming. We appreciate your work very much.” Then he added, “And your kindness.”
I guess, Phoebe thought, neither one of the Hsiens had read that knowledgeable article she had about Chinese people not touching strangers. Or displaying emotions in public!
Phoebe and Ulla moved in silence down the curving walk to the car by the curb.
Once belted in, Ulla cranked the ignition. “A horrible business. Those poor people.”
“Yes, you’re right. It shouldn’t have to happen.” She sighed deeply.
They drove out Sycamore Lane back to Pine.
“The Wangs live not far from here. On Palm Drive. Number three. Why don’t you go back down to the ‘Y’ and then hang a U and head back up the other street. That should be Fir. I think Palm is two or three street up, off to the right.”
She had a small map-book on her knee and was examining it with the help of a small penlight.
Ulla took the turn and shortly they pulled up in front of a massive house.
“Wow,” said Phoebe as she scanned the vast grounds and the brightness of the building, lit up like a small city. They got out of the car.
“’Wow’ is right,” Ulla breathed. “Makes the Hsien place look like servants’ quarters.”
The perimeter was also strongly lit, providing enough illumination that they could make out the expanses of snow-covered lawn, a long driveway lined with topiary sugared white by winter’s precipitation, and wide beds of flower plantings covered with protective hats. A high fence topped with barbed wire encircled the compound. Rotating cameras had been positioned about every thirty yards or so, and at the main gate an elaborate audio-speaker-video system had been installed in housing designed to keep it safe from bad weather. A large button in the center of an annunciator board was tagged PRESS. Phoebe pressed.
“Yes,” came back a young female voice. “Please state your business.”
A light came on above them and a whirring sound betrayed the movement of a camera turning its lens on them. They both looked up reflexively.
“I’m Detective Light and this is my partner, Detective Sundelius,” Phoebe said pointing to Ulla. The camera whirred.
“Please hold your badges up to the camera above you.”
The women took out their badges and lifted them. They could make out the tubular lens extending itself to focus in on their badges. “Please hold them there a minute. I need to copy down the numbers.”
Phoebe and Ulla looked at each other and shrugged.
After less than a minute the disembodied voice returned. “Thank you. Please wait while I verify your identities.”
They replaced the badges and shuffled their feet to stay warm. The wind was picking up, and it was not getting any warmer as the night wore on.
Suddenly the gate began to slide to the right. “Please drive up to the main entrance and I will meet you there. Thank you.” The speaker went dead.
“Let’s do it,” Phoebe said, clapping her arms around her body and breathing out clouds of condensation backlit by the intense illumination at the gate.
They got back into the warmth of the car and slowly drove through the gate. In the rearview mirror Ulla saw the gate start to slide back to the left as she drove slowly up the winding driveway. It has been thoroughly cleaned and orderly banks of plowed snow lined its sides. The large parking area in front of the house and the five-car garage off to the side had also been cleared of all snow. No cars were visible.
Cinching up, Phoebe and Ulla got out of the car and walked up to a great door with parquetry inlay of an intricate design. Just as Ulla was about to ring the bell, the door opened and spilled out warm shafts of light.
“Come in, please.”
She was an attractive young woman dressed in up-scale teen-style. Her face was friendly and she seemed at ease.
“Sorry about the routine at the gate,” she said. “My parents insist on it.”
“No problem,” Phoebe said, unbuttoning her coat. “It’s a smart thing to do. You can’t be too careful.”
TO BE CONTINUED