The sedan rolls up the gravel driveway through the gates that are left open. There are two cars already parked near the house- a small and rather old European compact, probably a fiat, and a larger and newer family car. The front door is open. James Thomas is sat on the front steps, holding something to his eye. There's clearly some kind of commotion going on inside.
[i]Huang is the first to step out of the car. He takes a moment to take the situation in: James hurt outside, new vehicles parked in the driveway, commotion going on within. Visitors. Not good.
He marches straight toward the steps and then kneels down to examine James.[/i]
Huang: Inspector Huang, HKPD. We've been called about a disturbance here, and from what I can hear, it's still in progress. James, would you like to fill us in on what's going on? And while I'm at it, what the hell happened to you?
James takes the bag of frozen peas away from his eye. Now you're closer you can also see a bicycle leaning against the wall.
James Thomas: Me? I just tried to break it up and caught an elbow. It's probably quickest if you just see for yourself. Haven't seen anything like this since my student debating days.
He waves vaguely indoors.
Nic pulls his walking stick out of the sedan before striding towards the house. He smiles reassuringly at Mr. Tomas as he approaches.
Nic: Hello again, sir! Nic Bennet; you may remember me from this morning. Appearances to the contrary, the investigation is coming along nicely. We have some leads, and feel we are getting closer to finding Mingxia every hour. We'll have a look at what's going on inside, and see if it sheds any light on our situation.
Nic reaches into his pocket and produces a tiny vial of green paste. He leans over and whispers to Mr. Tomas.
Nic: Sir, rub some of this onto your eye. It'll prevent swelling and bruising. Um... for an hour or two, you may see weird flickering auras of light around the faces of people you speak to when you look out of that eye, but pay no attention to that. It's just a side-effect of the caterpillar enzymes.
Nic walks into the house.
Huang rolls his eyes, takes off his shades, and follows Nic inside.
James Thomas look dubiously at the phial. Of all the places its contents are likely to end up, you suspect that his eye is one of the least probable.
[i]Inside the house it's easy to see what the ruckus is all about. There's a brawl in the living room. A woman wearing a green shawl, a number of bangles and a crystal necklace had got a Buddhist monk in a headlock. He's punching her in the stomach. A glass-topped table has been overturned, scattering papers and knick-knacks everywhere. A Catholic priest with a torn sleeve is kneeling on the floor chasing beads from a snapped rosary. There is a strong smell of incense.
On the far side of the room, Aaron Thomas is sat in an armchair with his head in his hands.[/i]
Huang takes in the scene before him. He's seen some weird scenes in his life, even before his bloody initiation into the supernatural world. But never in a million years would he have seen a Buddhist monk, a Catholic priest, and...he didn't know what the hell she was...in the middle of a big fight. What the fight was about was anybody's guess.
Huang steps up and flashes the badge, speaking in a loud and clear voice.
Huang: This is Inspector Huang, HKPD! I order you both to stand down, so that we can determine what the hell is going on here! Don't make us separate you two!
He makes a mental note to keep an eye on the woman. Strangers in situations like this are never to be trusted, and Mingxia's words aren't exactly helping one bit.
Nic steps smoothly around the grappling Buddhist and scoops up the scattered papers from the floor, casually scanning the contents while collecting them. He gives a cheerful smile to the priest and nudges some beads across the floorboards towards the Catholic's scrabbling hands. He then makes his way to the seated Mr. Thomas.
Nic: Hello again, sir.
Nic jerks his head back towards the raucous group.
Nic: Eh. Amateurs. Don't worry, Mr. Thomas, Huang will scare 'em off. Then we'll fill you in on what we know about Mingxia.
Nic makes a sour face as he sniffs the air.
Nic: Oh, for the love of... you don't burn mountain pine incense indoors without lighting tallow candles dipped in spring water. It totally messes with the chi. Who invited these goobers?
[i]The undignified scuffling stops, after a while, with a certain amount of reluctance. The monk is red in the face, with a split lip, while the woman's hair is in disarray. She has a wild look in her eyes. The priest straightens up, with some difficulty, and also turns his attention to Huang. The three of them look, for all the world, like a group of school-kids caught scrapping in the cloakroom.
Mr. Thomas looks up at Nic.[/i]
Aaron Thomas: Well, er, as a matter of fact I did. I... didn't have much faith in you and your companions' ability to help. I looked through the phone book for exorcists and found these three. I couldn't decide which would be best, so I called them all. Once they arrived, they started arguing. I think the priest threw the first punch. Do you think I should have let them know I was inviting the others?
Nic is unfazed by Mr. Thomas' remarks. If he had a jiao for every time someone though his abilities were a sham, he'd own the Thomas' estate by now.
Nic: Sir, I respectfully suggest that if these individuals were authentic and experienced, they'd not be fighting so hard for the chance to go up against the evil that is involved in holding your daughter prisoner. An exorcist isn't a weekend temp job. And we certainly don't advertise in the Hong Kong Directory.
Nic shoots a burning, pointed look at the three disheveled guests.
Nic: Mr. Thomas, if you'll dismiss these three... dabblers... then we can discuss actual facts that we, as trained and veteran investigators of the Hong Kong Police, have discovered regarding your case. My associates Ms. Ming Shi and Detective Huang can explain what we know, and I'd like to see your daughter's bedroom again for a few minutes, in silence, if I could.
Nic waves his hand in front of his face.
Nic: And if it isn't too much trouble, please extinguish the pine incense.
Huang: Besides, I may not be as versed in the weird stuff as Nic here, but I always check out religious differences before even thinking of doing something like this. I'm pretty sure that the methods of at least one of these exorcists went against the religion of at least one of the others. I don't think you would have helped things much by not letting them know that the others were coming too.
Suddenly, Ming gallops up the front steps and slides to a dramatic halt just behind Huang and Nic. She pumps her now-reloaded shotgun with a loud "Ka-CHUNK!"
Ming: Okay! Okay! I'm reloaded! Just took me a second ... stupid cartridges keep rolling all over the place. Where's the baddies? Let me at 'em ... I'll SPLAT 'em!
There is suddenly absolute, stone cold silence apart from the sound of dropped rosary beads bouncing on the polished wooden floor. The would-be exorcists stand stock-still, staring at the shotgun.
Ming: Ummm ... did I say something wrong?
Huang rolls his eyes for what must be the fifth time today before rounding on Ming.
Huang: Goddammit, Ming, put the gun away! There are no bad guys here -- just three amateur exorcists having a row because Mr. Thomas here called all three of them in at once instead of one at a time, and apparently without checking religious differences to boot. And we had things well under control!
Huang sighs and shakes his head.
Huang: And people call me the loose cannon...
The three stunned guests look from Ming to Huang.
Buddhist: Er... could I be excused?
There's a snorting noise.
Aaron Thomas is trying, and failing, to contains his laughter. He points a finger at the tableau, weakly, then dissolves into fresh hilarity. Tears run down his cheeks. Slumped against the wall, he can't help himself.
Huang sighs, perhaps the fifth time he's done so today. This day is just getting weirder and weirder. He addresses the monk.
Huang: You're excused. Same goes for the rest of you.
With nothing else to do, Huang looks over to the tableau to see what in the hell has Mr. Thomas all cracked up.
[i]The red-faced mystics file out of the room. You overhear the Buddhist asking James Thomas if he can use the lavatory.
Aaron Thomas calms down a little, wiping tears from his eyes and clearing his throat.[/i]
Aaron Thomas: Sorry about that. Hem. It's just... they looked so silly lined up like that. Don't know why I was so hysterical. Stress, probably. There's not been much to laugh at recently.
He leans forwards.
Aaron Thomas: I'm sorry I had so little faith in you and your fellow officers. I see know that at least you know your business. If there's anything I can help with I will. Whatever is good for Mingxia. But if there's weird stuff I don't need to know about, I don't want to hear it. I'm shaken enough as it is at the moment. I trust you to do everything you can.
Huang nods sympathetically.
Huang: There's not been much for us to laugh at either. Had I known that this was going to be just a simple spat over religion, I would not have made such a scene at the hospital trying to get the others over here. Given our current situation, I thought that you and Yunru were in serious danger.
Someone's definitely kidnapped Mingxia. And whoever it is has their fingers in some serious weirdness. We've already been in one gunfight, and whoever's behind this knows we're on the case now. We were going to pay a visit to Sarah when we got the call from Richardson...
Huang stops talking as realization dawns in his eyes. With a muttered curse in Cantonese, he wheels around and faces his partners.
Huang: We need to move now.
Ming waves the shotgun around wildly ...
Ming: Lead on, Inspector!