Scene 3: Thomas residence, Tuen Mun

The Thomas residence lies at the end of a private gravel drive nearly 100 metres long. The wrought iron gates open as you approach. The landscaping has been artfully arranged to create the impression of more space than it does in fact possess. Trees screen the neighbouring houses, and flowerbeds and shrubs dot the lawns. You would be forgiven for taking it as part of a British stately home's gardens, were it not for the security cameras watching the drive and the Buddha statue watching over the carp pond. A gardener is pushing a wheelbarrow across the grass.
The house itself is built in the colonial style, two floors but no courtyard. The overall impression is one of affluent restraint. Whoever lives is clearly rich, but not inclined to flaunt their wealth.
A Jaguar X-type estate is parked next to the house, and is swiftly joined by the unmarked sedan and the Goldwing.

As he takes off his helmet, Arthur Lee winks his eyes in the sun. He retrieves his black hat from the side case and wears it with a sigh of relief. He then lowers his sunglasses and takes a slow panoramic look of his surroundings.

{Arthur tries to use his schtick Fertility/Observe Chi to try to get a feeling of the flow of chi in the area, and to detect any reminiscence of a magical effect.}

Ming gets out of the sedan, and wanders toward the nearest security camera with a distracted look on her face, mumbling some technobabble about video feeds and maximum resolution under her breath.

{Trying to figure out where the feed lines go ... ie. where the central security station is where the video tapes would be kept.}

Arthur takes a good look around

{The garden and house have good chi, but only what you would expect from a property built with the advice of geomancers. The chi isn't strong enough for the house to be a feng shui site, but it could become so with patient work. There are no lingering auras betraying recent magic in the vicinity.}

Ming Shi finds the nearest camera in a scots pine near the house. She follows a cable across to the wall, along the front of the house and eventually vanishing through a hole in the door frame of the front door. Just after examining it closely, she realises the front door is open and a man is a suit is standing in the doorway.

Man: Can I help you?

Ming stumbles back a step in surprise. Then she blurts out:

Ming: I need your cable!

The man is Caucasian, speaking English with no trace of accent. He is wearing an expensive suit. He frowns.

Man: What? We don't buy from door-to-door callers. And it's in very poor taste to try to sell a television subscription at the moment. I have half a mind to call the police.

As if on cue, Inspector Huang moves in just behind Ming and flashes his badge. His tone is all business.

Inspector Huang: Inspector Ken Huang, HKPD. The lady you're talking to at the moment is Li Ming Shi, one of my team. We're here to see Aaron Thomas about the Mingxia case. You wouldn't happen to be him by any chance, would you?

[i]Nic swings off the Godlwing as Lee brings it to a halt, and gently places his helmet on the ground beside the bike. He spends a few moments walking in a slow circle around the bike, resting his cane over his shoulder, almost like an unbrella, and absently twirling it. He takes in as much of the property as he can; not really looking for anything, just anything noticeably out of place.

He wanders over to the carp pond, and stares into the water for a while before heading towards the house, where he's noticed Huang and Ming Shi in coversation with a gentleman. As he goes, he passes Lee.[/i]

Nic (to Lee): So, what's the lay of the land look like, amigo? Anything we should know? By the way, the carp reminded me that I haven't had good sushi lately. Maybe when this is all done, we can all grab some.

Continues to the front door.

The man seems to relax a little.

Man: I'm a Mr. Thomas- his elder brother James. I flew in yesterday to help him through. He said something about a special unit coming to help today. I must say, you're... not what I expected. Come in, I'll take you to him.

He gestures into the house, and steps to one side to let you in.

Nic glances around the grounds- he notices a handful of security cameras, including one trained on the gate, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Arthur: Let us get the job done, first...

And then he prepares to get inside, all senses in alert.

[i]Beyond the door is a short corridor leading into a reception room. The interior of the house seems to match the outside in terms of ostentation. There's an alcove right next to the front door that appears to function as a cloakroom, and in the reception room you can see the flickering of a TV. There's no-one else visible.

James Thomas graciously gestures the four of you inside.[/i]

Nic steps through the doorway into the house, sliding his sunglasses off.

Nic: Good to meet you, Mr. Thomas. I'm Nic Bennet with the HKPD. I'd like to see young Ms. Thomas' bedroom, perhaps peruse some of her personal items. I'm sure the previous detectives gave the room a once-over, but there may be clues to her disappearance that are more apparent on a second inspection. I promise not to disturb anything.

James nods.

James Thomas: I'll take you up myself. All the bedrooms are on the first floor- or is it second floor here in Hong Kong? He shakes his head, as if to clear his mind. Anyway, your associates should probably go through to see my brother. Did I say he was expecting you? Sorry. I'm a bit jet-lagged, I'm afraid.

He starts climbing a set of stairs at one side of the corridor.

James Thomas: (Calling out) Aaron? The police are here. I'm sending them through.

Anyone who walks into the house can see an alcove to one side of the door, home to coats, shoes and a small black and white monitor. Every three seconds it switches to the view from a different camera. There's a shelf underneath it, with two unboxed VHS tapes lying on it.

As he follows the man towards the stairs, Nic puts his hand reassuringly on Mr. Thomas' shoulder and speaks in a friendly tone.

Nic: Mr. Thomas, where have you come from, to be with your brother's family today? I'm sorry to hear about your jet lag.

Were you close to your niece? Is there anything you can tell us about her habits that perhaps would tell us where she went or what she was doing when she disappeared? I assume the detectives here earlier did not have a chance to speak to you, if you've just arrived, so anything you can provide would be helpful.

After speaking to the man, Nic continues up the staircase towards the second floor and the girl's room.

I'll keep upstairs and downstairs in the same scene for now.

James Thomas talks over his shoulder as he climbs the stairs.

James Thomas: Flew over from London just yesterday. Aaron moved here not long after he graduated. We've kept in touch with letters, birthday cards, that sort of thing, but I haven't been to see him until now. I was due some time off when I heard about Mingxia (he seems to have difficulty getting the pronunciation quite right) and thought he could use the support. I'm afraid I don't really know her that well, only through Aaron's letters.

At the top of the stairs, he gestures down the landing.

James Thomas: Her room is at the end. Try not to make too much noise, Yunru is asleep next door. I think it's hit her hardest of all, poor thing.

Ming spots her quarry, and closes in on the security tapes ...

Ming pushes aside a particularly awkward coat and makes a grab for the tapes while James Thomas and Nic climb the stairs. The tapes look old and much-used. There's a series of dates, all but the last one crossed out, on the labels. One of the tapes has the date of Mingxia's disappearance, a few crossings-out back.

Inspector Huang points up to where Nic and James have just traveled upstairs.

Huang: Arthur, could you check on those two? Make sure Nic doesn't disturb anything?

With that, he heads over to Ming's side. She seems to have found something interesting.

Huang: Was expecting something a little bit more high tech, but I think this'll have to do. Don't suppose these people have a VCR somewhere around here that we can use, do you?

Huang notices a beaten-up VHS recorder behind the monitor; it would probably be possible to use that. However, as the date in question is crossed out it may take some work in the lab to try and recover images that have been taped over.

[i]Huang utters a choice oath under his breath as he stares at the crossed-out date. If anything important was taped over...

He turns to Ming.[/i]

Huang: All right, looks like you've got some lab work ahead of you. And the security guy and I need to have a talk later.

Huang takes a glance up the stairwell

Huang: I'm going to go see how Nic and Arthur are doing. I'll want to check out Mingxia's computer in the meantime.