[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 082
Chapter 16 (8 of 10): Investigation
“Yes?” he said.
“Good evening, sir,” Phoebe said. “I’m detective Light and this is my partner, Detective Sundelius.” Their ID badges hung around their necks and each held hers out for the man to read. A woman, equally anxious, came up the man’s side and inspected the badges.
“Mr. and Mrs. Cao?”
“Yes,” he said, his voice horribly knowing and defeated. “We have been expecting you.” The woman caught her breath. “The police, I mean,” he added. He glanced around outside at the forbidding sky. “It is best if you come inside. It is cold out here.”
He spoke with a noticeable accent.
The detectives entered a warm and cozy room brightly lit. They took off their coats and handed them to Mrs. Cao, who hung them in a small open closet.
Mr. Cao led them down a hallway to a large den with a television, sound off, the local weather on. Once they were all seated, he asked, “This is about Trinh, is it not?”
Phoebe took out the now familiar photo of the young woman’s face. “I’m afraid so. Sir,” she said, handing the picture to Mr. Cao, “is this Trinh?”
He hesitated before looking, looked, and then held it for his wife to look. The truth was written unmistakably on their grief-filled faces before any word was uttered. Neither one of them showed any other outward sign.
After about a minute of silent viewing, he handed the picture back to Phoebe. He took his wife’s hand in his own. Like his wife, he appeared dazed but not all that surprised.
“Yes,” he said with unfathomable sadness, “yes, this is our Trinh.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Cao whispered. “It is Trinh.” The wife too had a marked accent.
“I’m very sorry for your loss, Mr. and Mrs. Cao,” Phoebe said with as much compassion as she could. “Very, very sorry.”
“Please accept my condolences, too,” Ulla said softly.
“May I bring you something to eat or drink?” Mrs. Cao inquired.
“No, no thank you,” Phoebe and Ulla said at the same time.
There was a brief lull as Phoebe placed the photo back in its envelope and put the envelope in her dark valise.
“Is there anything you can tell us, Detective?” Mr. Cao addressed himself to Phoebe.
Phoebe cleared her throat. “I’m afraid there really isn’t much that we know yet,” she said. “The body … Trinh’s body was only found early this morning. Out in the country north of the city near a little town called Dust.”
The Caos appeared quite puzzled, then looked at each other questioningly.
“I have never heard of this town,” Mrs. Cao said.
“And I have not,” the husband said. “What would Trinh be doing there?”
“We’re not sure, sir, that she was … was killed there. This is still under investigation.”
“I see,” he said.
Phoebe pushed on, however reluctantly. “The more we can learn about Trinh, as soon as possible, the more helpful it will be to our inquiry. Do you think you are up to answering some questions tonight, or would you rather wait until tomorrow?”
“Now is acceptable,” Mr. Trinh said.
Before Phoebe and Ulla could get started, Mrs. Cao spoke up, angrily, her eyes on her husband, “It is that man. That boyfriend of hers.” Her lips were tightly set. “I know it. I feel it in here.” She slammed her right fist against her chest.
“We don’t know anything at this point, Kieu,” Mr. Cao said in a soothing voice.
“But I do, Gia,” she answered him forcefully. “I have big suspicions.”
Phoebe and Ulla were somewhat taken aback by this more overt display of emotion.
Ulla inserted herself into their exchange. “Excuse me, Mrs. Cao. Are you saying that you know something about this or just that you suspect something?”
“I suspect,” she said. “But my heart knows.”
“I see,” Ulla said.
“Can you tell us about your suspicions?” Phoebe prompted.
Mrs. Cao caught her husband’s attention, and he gave her a nod of encouragement.
“Our Trinh was seeing an American man. She told me many times about him.”
“We tried to make her stop,” Mr. Cao continued. “But Trinh was twenty-four, and head-strong. She was a very bright girl. At the university. She was very strong in mathematics. Therefore she thought she knew everything about everything.”
“It was foolish for a girl who is … was so smart,” the mother added gloomily.
“She was a student here at the city university?”
“Yes. In the graduate program in mathematics.”
Both detectives were scribbling furiously in their notepads. “Excuse me,” Phoebe interrupted, “do you mind if we tape this conversation?”
“That is no problem,” Mr. Cao said.
Phoebe pulled out her little Panasonic, stuck a fresh tape in the window slot, shut it and pushed the start buttons. “Now, you mentioned this man Trinh was seeing. An American man.”
“Yes,” the mother confirmed.
“Someone at the university?”
“We do not think so,” Mr. Cao said.
“What did she say about him that made you think not?”
“He was older than she was. Maybe twenty-five years.”
“Could he have been a professor, maybe?” Ulla asked.
“We did not think so,” Mr. Cao answered.
“Any special reason?”
“Yes. He was a policeman.”
Ulla and Phoebe both stopped scratching at their pads simultaneously. The only sound in the sudden silence was the wavering hiss of the tape spooling in the Panasonic.
“Yes, that is what she said.”
“Did you ever meet this man?”
“He was not welcome here.”
“So you never actually saw him?”
“Yes. Once. He picked her up one Friday evening before Christmas and came to the door. It was awkward. We asked Trinh not to bring him to the house again,” Mr. Cao said.
“Could you identify him from a photo?”
“Yes,” the father said.
“And much older than Trinh.” The mother added in a whisper, needing something to say.
“Yes, of course.”
“Do you think it was serious between this man and Trinh?” Ulla asked.
“I think yes,” Mrs. Cao said.
“But there could never have been a marriage,” the husband added.
This last comment made Phoebe uncomfortable.
“Do you mind if I ask why?”
“He was already married.”
“I see,” Phoebe observed with some relief.
“How long had they been seeing each other?”
“For about three years,” Mrs. Cao explained. “Trinh told me they first met in early 2000. She was still an undergraduate then.”
“Is there anything else you can tell us about this man that might help us identify him? We would certainly like to talk to him.”
Mr. and Mrs. Cao eyed each other and shrugged their shoulders. “No, nothing. He was big.”
TO BE CONTINUED