Scene 4: Wibbly Burger, Tuen Mun

Not far from the Thomas residence there's a restaurant and take-away. It's a good place to grab a bite before pressing on. It offers a mix of Cantonese cuisine and Western-style fast food. You can get anything from crispy duck to a double cheese-burger. A bored-looking waitress in an anonymising uniform wanders over to the table where Ken, Nic and Ming Shi are examining the menu.

Waitress: What'll it be?

Ming: Ooooh ... a double order of the fried squid balls, for me please! And a chocolate shake. Thanks!

Once the orders are in and the waitress leaves ...

Ming: So, what's our plan of action?

Nic twirls his personal lacquered chopsticks in his noodles (he hates using utensils from restaurants), pondering for a moment.

Nic: We'll hit the location where the girl disappeared, although with Arthur pulled off the case, we're not gonna get much of a vibe from the location itself. I can do some tricks, but reading chi auras isn't one of them. I hope there's some physical evidence that gives us a clue as to who swiped her. If we get a solid lead, we follow that to the girl. If we don't, we go see the blue-haired friend, Sarah.

Nic slurps the last of his noodles, smiling at the surprisingly tasty flavor.

Nic: We need to know what the word on the street is. Somebody doesn't just go up in smoke without somebody else seeing or hearing something about it. Huang, do you have any eyes on the street here, someone we could shake down for info? And Ming, if there are any street cameras or nearby security cameras at the scene of the disappearance, you should give those a look and see if anything was caught on tape.

Nic sighs.

The thing that worries me is the magic blocking me from seeing Mingxia. If there's magic involved, that means a sorcerer. I've got a friend in this part of the city who keeps tabs on which spell-slingers, and people in my line of work, are passing through. If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna make some calls and see if there's any word about someone new on the scene causing problems.

Nic leaves the table and walks outside, dialing his cell phone.

As Nic leaves, Huang gets even more fidgety than before. He needs a smoke really badly, and the fact that this place is a smoke-free zone is not helping his mood one bit. Especially since Nic's recollection about magic being involved has only confirmed his suspicions.

Huang: A sorcerer. I hate it when I'm right. But it's our only explanation. If there's magic involved, there's a sorcerer behind it. And if we are dealing with a sorcerer willing to do bad shit in order to get ahead in the game, that means we're probably going to have to go through at least one demon in order to get to her.

[i]Huang closes his eyes silently as he remembers that disastrous last case for the HKPD. The screams of his team as they are ripped apart by something out of a nightmare. Meiying, her face bloody, Springfield XD Tactical .45 in both hands blazing away at the monster as it advances on her, razor sharp claws dripping with blood, seeking to tear her heart out. And that single piercing scream, heartbreaking and horrifying, that continues to haunt his nightmares.

And then Huang's eyes open, and something truly grim has taken hold.[/i]

Huang: And if there is one thing that I hate worse than evil sorcerers, it's demons.

The meals are passable, but nothing to write home about. The restaurant begins to fill up with teenagers from a nearby school out for lunch.

Ming's PDA starts to chirrup. The phone records have arrived. A quick skim reveals calls to and from only two numbers, one a landline and one another mobile. Cross-referencing the numbers with the previous file shows the landline is the house of her best friend, Sarah. The mobile doesn't feature.

Totally forgetting how rude it is to take cell calls at the table, Ming immediately starts dialing the local carriers (again) to try to match this new cell number as she did Mingxia's before.

Huang sighs as he watches Ming call up the phone companies again. He hopes to hell he won't have to yell at another receptionist.

Huang: Let's see if we can handle this a little better than last time, shall we?

The mobile is on the same network and tariff as Mingxia's. Ming Shi speaks to the same peon as before, who is markedly more helpful and polite this time round. The mobile is registered to the friend's address. A call history will take another few minutes to arrive.

Nic starts calling outside, out of the way of the huddled group of smokers sparking up under the awning.

Contact: Things have been pretty quiet lately. The last big thing was that guys with the dolls, but he left when the heat from the regular cops got too much for him. One-Eye Fung has been ill lately and hasn't been out, while Big Joey has stayed on his meds the last month or so. I can't think of anyone else who would be causing trouble.

There is an atmosphere, though. The air's heavy, like a thunderstorm.

Nic walks back inside Wibbly Burger, rolling a mint around inside his mouth, with a thoughtful look on his face. He stands at the table by Ming and Huang, and taps his walking stick against the floor gently.

Nic: Well, it's none of the usual suspects. If it were a magician, he'd have to be new in town and very sneaky. But I'm under the growing concern that we may be dealing with supernatural elements entirely. Things are starting to feel strange, more ominous than a simple kidnapping should ever be. I dunno, maybe Underworld beings are involved.

A faraway, slightly angry look passes over Nic's face after he says that, and he doesn't speak for a moment, seemingly lost in some memory. Then he snaps back to the moment, and whacks his cane on the floor once more, loudly.

Nic: We need to get to the site of the disappearance, and we need to talk to Sarah immediately. I don't know what connection the family could have with supernatural beings, so maybe Mingxia's simply caught in the middle. But we need to keep moving. Every hour we don't find her makes me feel more anxious for her. Whatever took her doesn't want anything from the family, it wants her.

Nic: Something's about to happen, and it ain't gonna be good.

[i]Huang's eyes settle for one moment on Nic. He's not heard much about the "Underworld" in mystical terms except for Arthur's words about it, and Arthur's words about the Underworld linked it to another word. One with which Huang is vastly more familiar.

Huang closes his eyes. Drains the last of his cup of coffee.

And then he[/i] SLAMS THE MUG DOWN onto the table, smashing it into pieces. He rises from his chair.

Huang: Then what the hell are we waiting for?

Huang turns and comes face to face with the waitress who has just come by with the bill and is a bit startled by Huang's display. Huang sighs, calms down a bit, pulls some cash out of his wallet and puts it on the table.

Huang: Here you are. Sorry about the mug. How much will that cost?

As he speaks, Huang wheels around to apologise to the waitress.

Waitress: Eeeeee!

She drops the tray of food she's holding with a clatter. Two mugs break, and spaghetti is strewn all over the floor and Huang's shoes.

Huang sighs again, and drops more money on the table.

Ming sighs heavily and rolls her eyes ...

Ming (under her breath):
Boys ... they're always the same.

Ming (out loud): Okay, before we create a scene ... errr, a BIGGER scene ... maybe it's time to go check out the scene of the crime?

Ming heads toward the door, jangling the car keys in one hand.

Nic tosses some bills onto the table to cover his noodle lunch, steps gingerly over the food and mug remnants on the floor, and heads out into the parking lot and into the passenger side of the car again.

Nic: Fantastic! So it's off to the scene of the crime!

He pulls out his miniature magnifying glass.

Nic: I hope I can actually use this sometime. I feel so... police-y.

Ming: I'm afraid "police-y" is as close as you and I are going to get, Nic ... seems like having a ginormous chip on your shoulder is a prerequisite for being a member of the regular police force these days!

Ming pointedly glances back at Huang ...

Ming: Sometimes I wonder if the police department doesn't stage horrible life experiences just to toughen them up.

Ming grins and winks at Nic.