Scene 1: Section 44 Office

[i]The main office for Section 44 is open plan. The Sec 44 building used to be the premises of a newspaper, before the police department bought it up. Each officer has their own desk, at least, although the phone switchboard hasn't worked properly since 2002. Sometimes Huang gets calls trying to order dim sum. The air conditioning is old- despite the oppressive heat no-one wants to turn it on because it has a distressing tendency to emit pigeon feathers.

There's a cork board on one wall where the officers pin up cuttings from the local papers about any unexplained phenomena. Most of them never amount to anything, but more than once such a clipping has provided a vital clue to cracking the case.

It's a slow day in the office. Nic is on leave and Ming is down in the garage tinkering as usual.

Soo-lin Ma, Debbie Moore, Ken Huang and Anthony Walker are all killing time in the office, as the shouts of street vendors drift in through windows open to combat the heat.[/i]

So- officers of Section 44- what do you have on your desk and what are you doing to kill time on this slow day?

. . . in my lab coat, peering intently at a computer screen. Every so often anyone passing will hear a considered "Aaaahh. . ." or "Ohhhh. . ." as I scroll through pages and pages of journal articles from the International Mineral Research Fellowship Quarterly Review.

Every couple of hours a watcher might see me spin on my chair and say "Exactly! Of course!" and snort with glee before chewing keenly on a biro tip and scribbling notes in my journal.

At one point I turn and exclaim to a passing cleaning lady ". . . so you see, due to the processes necessary for the production of ochre on an industrial scale, naturally operators are required to use a 271B/f drill bit. . . which of course explains everything!"

It's a quiet day in the office. . . and I'm having a whale of a time. . .

[i]Inspector Huang is not in a good mood. It's goddamn muggy out there, the yelling of the street vendors is getting on his nerves, he's just run out of smokes, and he is absolutely, positively bored out of his skull. Not even the photo of the late Sun Meiying on his desk is enough to improve his mood. If anything, it only makes it worse, knowing she's not there to do something to cheer up his mood.

Usually when he's having a slow day like this, he'd be over at the range shredding paper targets with his dual Berettas or blowing up bowling pins with the Persuader, but that asshole Richardson wants him at his desk in case a call comes in. Not that he's had many calls today that weren't someone trying to sell him something or calling for dim sum -- one of these days he's going to have to get Ming or some other tech wiz to fix up the goddamn switchboard.

He can count the number of worthwhile cases he's fielded since the Mingxia affair on one hand and still have fingers left over. The weirdest by far was a haunting that had turned out to be a domestic dispute between two ghosts that had not been resolved for nearly a century, and that had the new couple that moved into the old place freaked as hell. Nic and Arthur had been put in charge of talking some goddamn sense into the ghosts while Huang and Ming dealt with the new owners.

Huang mutters an oath in Cantonese and wipes the sweat off his brow.[/i]

Huang: (muttering) I wish I was back on the force again. I'd at least have something to do today. Settling a domestic dispute. Investigating a murder. Stopping a goddamn robbery. Anything but this go se.

Debbie sits at her desk somewhat uncomfortably. She's not here for the desk job - though, she supposes, she should be grateful that work is so slow. She shifts slightly pushing the chair out and to the side so she can sit with her feet on one corner of the desk.

Running a hand through her hair she tuts, she'll need a hair cut soon. She pulls a clump of hair to examine, and some re-highlighting too she thinks.

Tossing the hair to one side she clicks on her computer to treat herself and anyone in earshot to World's 50 greatest explosions on youtube.

The desk is immaculate, in-tray and out-tray perfectly aligned. I'm sat with my back straight and chin up, formal and precise, holding a copy of Gossip! magazine like it's a hymn book, studying it, learning it. My raven hair is flawlessly tidy and make-up is textbook. It doesn't matter how hot it gets in here, I never perspire.

"Officer Moore, might you like to choose to reappraise the violence-content of that televisual show. Is it appropriate for a law operative on duty?"

"I do have some legal tobacco cigarettes that I'm not intending to smoke, Inspector, would you like to have a couple?"

"Officer Walker, I'm not familiar with industrial scale ochre production. I'd be very interested to hear about it, if you have a moment."

"My friends, whilst I appreciate the need for special circumstance operatives to enjoy some approved relaxation time, I wonder whether we might be able to serve our purpose more effectively with some field work? Is Sector 44 approved for field work?

. . . that ochre pigment is found as a soft deposit intermingled with pockets of harder crystalline iron ore. In the mine in question, iron had been mined, but also a small quantity of purple ochre - an unusual natural earth pigment, with similar colours usually only available in synthetic forms. It's normally dug by hand, using simple tools much as the ancient miners would have done, but some mines use drill bits. And you see, the strange damage to victim 4713's eye balls was clearly performed by a mechanical device. And, if we look closely at these samples, one finds tiny quantities of natural pigment. At first this naturally led the investigators to suspect Harry Kwan, the artist, as purple ochre was used in his work, but of course the real culprit must have been Anders Vaatergaarten, who had a brief sojurn in an African iron ore mine before coming to the city. The mine also contained ochre, do you see?

Oh, are you tired Miss Soo-lin? You appear to be yawning. . . perhaps a chamomile and limeflower tissane might pep you up a little?

"...... well, that was instructive. But as for a drink," and my eyes flash wide with enthusiasm, "maybe I could go for one of those delicious coffees?"

[i]I fairly leap across the room to a battered vending machine, the lights aligned to give it a baleful, red-eyed stare. As I jab at the worn button it splutters and then grinds to a halt.

The Inspector wearily looks over, drags himself to his feet and gives it a solid kick, forcing it to disgorge a polystyrene cup of murky liquid and doubtful flavour. I wrap my hands around it and sip carefully, eyes crinkling with pleasure.[/i]

"Now THAT is some fine coffee, officers. And Officer Walker, until you know me well enough to use my first name, please use my title 'Officer', not 'Miss'. I prefer to avoid outdated patriarchal nomenclature conventions that advertise my sexual availability, thank you."

I lay a hand on Officer Walker's arm and give him a warm smile.

The door to superintendent Richardson's office slams back on its hinges, nearly shaking the noticeboard down from the wall.

Richardson: Damn it all, I can't hear myself think with the racket you lot are making out here. I was hoping you would get some paperwork done, but fat chance of that it looks like. How am I supposed to work with that kind of noise going on?

From inside his office, a radio can clearly be heard broadcasting live horse racing commentary. Richardson looks caught-out momentarily, then brandishes a police file.

Richardson: You might as well get some exercise if you're not going to do any work. A couple of days ago uniform chased a suspected joyrider into an industrial estate, but lost him somewhere there. Get yourselves out there and see if you can turn up anything the real police missed.

He gives the officers a wry grin.

Richardson: This is what I like to think of as 'raising the dead'. We've got some... special... resources to draw on so every now and again we see if we can get a regular investigation going where more mundane means have failed. Once you turn up something concrete I can show to CID, our work is done. Until then, I get some peace and quiet around the office.

Forgetting for a moment she no longer works for her father and not holding onto her tongue Debbie let's out a noise that might be more appropriate from a two year old.

"As nice as it would be to stretch our weary legs - this isn't a case. This isn't even an excuse to go get pizza. This "raising the dead" will kill us."

Suddenly she catches herself and mumbles an apology, her face turning bright red. She swings round and closes down the internet and makes quick effort to make her desk presentable.

"Sorry sir. We'll get right on it sir."

Crap, she thinks to herself that's done it now - way to show them all you're not just some spoiled British kid with issues and no sense of responsibility. Way to lose your job before you're even out on the field...

Huang cracks his knuckles and stands up. Finally, an excuse to get out of the goddamn office...

Huang: A joyrider. Not exactly my kind of case, but it's better than sitting on my ass all day. Was this just a regular speeding violation, or did the guy have some other reason for running? And did the officer in question run the guy's license plate number through the database? I'd at least like a name and a vehicle make to go on.

Richardson: He caused an minor accident in a residential area then led the police on a wild goose chase through an industrial estate. Uniform found the car in an alley with the door open and the engine running, but the suspect couldn't be found. The chopper wasn't available, so they had to search from the ground. Turned up nothing. The owner of the car said it was stolen, but for all we know it could have been him.

Richardson: There was a witness- apparently someone lives in a rented flat near where the chase stopped. He was brought in for questioning but it turned out he was a registered informer, so they cut him loose.

Soo-lin:"Is the car in the pound? Officer Walker, can you give me a k34 and a p14 part B on the ForensDat? I believe you're authorised for that.

"If so, we should be able to figure out if the car was stolen, or simply made to look like it was stolen, allowing us to pursue or discount the owning citizen.

"Otherwise, who is authorised for citizen interrogation? Officer Moore? Inspector Huang?

"p14 part B. . . huhhhu huhuuhhhhu hhahaaaaA. Mhnf. Soooo-lin"

I present that which has been requested

Much of the bravado has left Debbie's posture, still she's eager to move on and gloss over her indiscretion.

"Uh, yeah, um; I'm qualified for interrogation. Not really done any yet but I know how!"

Half in her head and half muttering to herself: "Oh great, that made you look better Debbie. Show 'em your scout badges you got in training that'll impress a bunch of cops who've been on the force longer than you've been wearing clothes..."

Saying that last line slightly louder than she'd planned, Debbie turns beet red and hopes that no one heard her.

Richardson looks sideways at Debbie, then rolls his eyes.

Richardson: Look, whatever you plan to do go out and get started. And don't come back until you've got something I can show to CID to get them on track again.

He slaps the file down on the nearest desk

Richardson: Wsst! No time like the present.

Soo-lin and the Doc meet up in one of the moodily lit forensics rooms. She leans in close, the spotlights playing across her fine cheekbones as she peers into the microscope. Anthony adjusts his spectacles endlessly and looks uncomfortable.

Soo-lin: "Ahem. Check it out my man"

She grimaces slightly at her awkward attempt at HK street talk, but relaxes as it becomes clear that Walker is busy smelling her perfume.

"Look, these fingerprint patterns are overlaid with deformation from an alternate source. If we correlate with the data on file I think I can use this to prove whether the car was stolen.

"Now let's get out of the office and join the others for some legwork."

Joining officers Huang and Moore, she lays a friendly hand on Debbie's shoulder, slightly invading her personal space, and smiles.

"Officer Moore, if you're authorised for this kind of work I am sure you will do an excellent job."

...isn't beneath me. But still, must keep the old cortex in trim. Perhaps a bit of back to basics won't be a bad thing. . . count me in!"

Now, kit bag, CSI platinum investigators case, with my personalbrand of print dusting powder, spare batteries, Jeremiah's 'Casebooks' (the classic text, if you ask me), and of course, eight gauge street howitzer with superfine shot


Huang crosses his arms and fixes Debbie with an all-business stare.

Huang: I've handled my share of interrogations back in the day, though I've got no problem bringing a partner on. I hope you're up to playing "good cop" when we catch up to this guy, cause you know what my role's going to be...

Huang turns to Soo-Lin, and a silent look passes between the two of them. According to Richardson, she's on exchange from something called the Commonwealth Special Circumstances Unit, which neither Huang nor Richardson has heard about at all. Huang has her pegged as some kind of government agent or something, though what the hell she's doing in Section 44 is anybody's guess. Huang doesn't know what to make of her, but he will be keeping an eye on her, in any case.

Huang turns to Walker.

Huang: And Doc, I don't know how many cases you've taken on for us, but this is the first time you and I have been assigned together, and I will be treating the both of you the same as I would any other rookie. I seriously hope the both of you are up to this.

And with that, Huang gets his gear, most of which we have seen before: the regular digital camera for evidence, the "ghost camera" using regular film, the two Beretta M9s in shoulder holsters, and The Persuader, Huang's signature Mossberg, with its standard load along with a handful of special shells that Ming made custom. He's hoping to hell that he won't need it on this case.

Soo-lin:"Inspector... may I check out your equipment?"

She raises an eyebrow and moves in close to take a look at Ming's handiwork, nimble hands careful, blackest eyes flicking up at the Inspector.

"Marvellous, simply marvellous. Your colleague, Ming, is amazing. I hope I get to meet her soon."

She nods and gives both the hardware and then the Inspector a tiny smile.

"It's going to be a real pleasure working with Hong Kong's finest."[/i]

Walker: "Rookie? Ho ho ho. A good officer should never prejudge the evidence - let it speak to you sir, and then you will know and not have to guess"

Doctor Walker finishes packing his considerable evidence bag, then looks at the team

Walker: "So, who's driving?"