[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 081
Chapter 16 (7 of 10): Investigation
“No, I wouldn’t put it that way,” Phoebe comforted her. “Maybe just a little confused. About yourself and your father, and the relationship the two of you have.”
“It’s not unheard of,” Ulla interjected sardonically.
Finally Sheena gave a tentative smile. “You’ve both been really phat about this whole thing. And you’ve given me some stuff to think about.” She stood. “I’m grateful.” She chuckled softly and wiped her nose with the sleeve of her gray cashmere sweater.
The detectives gathered up their notebooks and photos. Hands were shaken all around and you-take-care-s exchanged with some genuine feeling. “You be sure to tell your parents that we were here. Actually, I should cite your father for not canceling that missing person report, but I guess I can make an exception this once.” She smiled warmly at Sheena. “He was probably so happy to see you again he just forgot all about it. What do you think?”
Sheena bit her lip to stop from smiling. “Maybe,” she said.
Once back in Ulla’s Mercedes, Phoebe pulled out her cell phone and called Missing Persons. She identified herself and gave her badge number to the person on the other end of the line. “I’m canceling an MP on one Xin Qian Wang. That’s ex-eye-en stop que-eye-a-en stop double-u-a-en-gee. Female, aka Sheena, nineteen years old, three Palm Drive.” She listened to the read-back. “Yes, that’s correct. Thank you.”
Before she started the car, Ulla turned to Phoebe, who was just tucking the cell phone back into her bulky coat pocket.
“Don’t you think you were a little hard on her at the end there, showing her the photo?”
“Yes, I think I was. I was probably even cruel. But sometimes that is what’s called for to prevent a greater cruelty. Do you think the point got across?”
Ulla thought about that. “Yes,” she said, slowly signaling an affirmative with her head movement, “yes, I suppose you are right. And I do think she saw what you were getting at.” She sighed in the darkness. “What a mess!”
“No, I don’t believe that to be the case. It’s certainly not a case of any kind of physical or sexual abuse. Of that I’m positive. But the mess, as you call it, that’s just generations, just family! It’s the way families are. Messy. Even in the best of circumstances.
“And I suspect what you have in this instance is not even so much a matter of generational conflict as it is of a conflict of cultures. At my age, I’ve lived through enormous cultural changes just in America. Somebody born after 1960 just has no idea what the ethos was like in this country before that. The sixties changed everything, and except for the civil rights movement, which was long overdue, I think it was the most horrible and destructive decade of my life. America was never the same after that, and that wasn’t all for the good either.
“Now imagine someone coming from China to America. How old can her parents be? Her father was born probably some time in the forties, maybe even the thirties. Can you imagine the kind of world he grew up in and how that world compares to America in 2002? I can’t.”
“You have a point,” Ulla conceded pensively. “But that … that thing – for want of a better word – between fathers and daughters seem to be pretty universal,” she added, not entirely without a trace of acrimony.
Phoebe shot her a sharp glance. “This wouldn’t have anything to do with the … the issues you said earlier you have with your own father, would it?”
“Of course it would,” Ulla said with resignation. “But I don’t want to talk about it. I’ve learned to live with.”
“But it just seems so sad, somehow, such a waste. Just like that young woman, I know she knows her father loves her.”
“Yes, she does.”
“She even admitted it herself.”
“True, but nineteen-year olds also love their boyfriends, maybe even more, they think, than their fathers. You’re not too old, are you, to remember how a good hormone rush can hijack your reason? I’ve got a lifetime on you, and I certainly haven’t forgotten.”
Ulla sighed. “That’s a graphic way to put it. And true. No. I remember only too clearly. Yes. And the father and daughter are still at each other.”
“It won’t always be that way.”
“Are you sure? I’d like to believe that. I’m ten years older than Sheena, and when she was talking about her father and that business with the grades I almost felt as if this was my story she was telling.” She snorted. “Let’s not talk about it.
“Where to next?”
Phoebe let it go.
She checked her notes with the penlight. “This should be the one. Third time’s a charm, and all that nonsense. No charm here, though, of course. Let’s see, the Caos live about seven blocks from here, closer to the center of the city. Why don’t you head back out to Fir and then hang a left. Go on down past that ‘Y’ in the road about five blocks. We’re looking for a Hyacinth Lane, off to the right. Number three-sixty-six.”
The Cao home was on a less magnificent scale than that of either the Hsiens or the Wangs, but it wasn’t hardship duty.
“Not too shabby,” Ulla commented.
“But down a notch or two in the house sweeps,” Phoebe added. She got herself ready. “Are we all set?”
“As set as ever. But I have the feeling this one is going to be painful. To say the least.”
“So, let’s do it.”
The car was parked next to a sidewalk from which a walk up to the door of the house sat at right angles. Shortly after the detectives got out of the car and slammed the doors shut, a strong light came on from above the house entrance. It cast an oblique illumination across the snow-covered lawn, which had taken on the craggy aspect of a moonscape. Distant, desolate, detached. Phoebe and Ulla looked at each other, eyebrows raised in uncomfortable anticipation.
As they approached the door it opened. A man who appeared to be in his late forties or early fifties peered out. His face was anxious.
TO BE CONTINUED