Scene 8: Suen Apartment, Tuen Mun

Sarah Suen lives with her mother in an apartment in a pretty average part of Tuen Mun. Nowhere near as extravagant as the area that Mingxia and her family live in, but not as run down as the area with the garages. Their apartment is a single floor of a block sandwiched between two much larger towers. One appears to be offices of some kind, the other denser apartments. There's a small car park for the building, with signs saying 'Residents Only' and 'Clamping in Operation' in Chinese and English.

Ming: How's that for a warm welcome?

Huang takes one look at the car-park and makes his best mystified face.

Huang: "Residents Only?" "Clamping in Operation?" Am I missing something here? Isn't there supposed to be a parking section for visitors?

Huang stares at the "Clamping in Operation" sign for a few more seconds before his eyes take on one of those determined looks. Something's not right.

Huang: Take us there. I want to speak to this "clamping" operator myself.

Ming: Heh ... I've got a better idea.

Ming pulls the sedan right up to the curb immediately in front of the building's door, then flips on the car's red & blue flashing police lights.

Ming: Let's see 'em clamp THAT!

With that, she's out of the car and heading for the front door.

When she gets to the door, Ming stops short.

Ming: Oh, hold on. Gotta check on some stuff.

Ming dials HQ, to see how work on the Thomas residence security tape and on Mingxia's laptop is going. She also asks that a courier be sent to pick up the epithelials Ming got off of the dog collar in the garage, and the hair sample Ming happened to grab from the brush in Mingxia's room for DNA comparison. She also asks that the courier bring Ming the whole case file on the shopkeepers' daughter's disappearance from 30 years ago while he's at it. Finally, she asks for contact info for the owner/renter of the garage.

Nic slides out of the car, and walks a small perimeter, his cane tapping on the sidewalk as he looks intently up at the buidlings on either side of Sarah's tower. He doesn't want to get surprised by any more sneak attacks like back at the garage. Also, if someone's watching them, Nic wants to see them as well...

Nic: We gotta be ready for this. If the dudes responsible for the garage know we were there, they'll guess we're coming for Sarah. If they're here now, I doubt they'll cooperate.

Nic smiles as he cracks his knuckles.

Nic: Maybe they'll resist arrest. That would make me feel better.

The Taoist wizard motions for his comrades to follow him inside, and he heads towards the nearest entryway.

Lab Tech: Sure. The courier will be our usual company. It might take a while to search out such an old file, so I'll send him for the samples right away. With any luck, we'll have turned up the file by the time he gets here and we can send him straight back. I'll get one of the temps here to look up the records for the garage and get them to text you as soon as we find out.

The adjacent towers looks newer than Sarah's tower. Some of the apartments have tried to jolly up their windows with window boxes and the like- in fact one is either a fruitless tomato plant or cannabis. There doesn't appear to be anyone at the windows watching, or any unnatural creatures. If something is going to drop out the sky like the chimney beast, it will probably have to be made of aerials. Even so, this small carpark feels uncomfortably overlooked.

The door has a selection of doorbells next to it. Each has a scrap of card under it with a barely legible name. Most have faded completely, or been covered with spiderwebs. There's one that seems to say 'Suen', but it's impossible to be sure.

Ming (on the phone): Any progress on the security tape and laptop from the Thomas home?

Lab Tech: Sure. You do realise that it's practically impossible to restore taped over imagery from VHS? 'Course, I found a way to get at some of it. The tracking on their recorder is a little off, so I managed to reconstruct a thin strip at the top of the image. Am I good or what? We see the girl leave, as you expect, then about 10 minutes later someone else leaves the grounds. There's no way to tell who it is, or even if it's important. But there's no-one entering before or after. No cars passing or anything. I'm not saying it's definitive, but it's the best we can get.

Lab Tech: It's pretty clean for a kid's laptop- not much spyware. Nothing interesting has been deleted recently that we can recover. I did find a hidden folder with some password protection on it. I'm brute-forcing it now, but that could take a couple of hours.

Ming gives the other two a rundown on the progress at HQ, then turns to scan the names on the doorbell until she finds "Suen"

Ming: Shall I do the honors?

With that she presses the buzzer, clearly barely restraining herself from buzzing out a merry tune. Instead, she opts for the more professional single note required of the situation.

Huang places his back to one side of the doorway, watching to see if anyone other than Sarah or her mother comes through the door.

After a long pause, you hear someone running down the stairs. Behind the frosted glass of the door they stop, fiddle with catches, then open it wide. The person is a woman in her late thirties- and bears significant resemblance to the Sarah in the photographs. If you had to guess, you'd say she was Sarah's mother. She blinks as she takes in the parked car with its lights flashing.

Woman: Can I help you?

Ming (under her breath): Heh, heh ... I love this part ...

Ming (adopting her best Huang impersonation):
Hello ma'am. I'm Agent Ni Ming Shi with HKPD. These are my partners Agent Bennet and Inspector Huang. We'd like to ask you and your daughter a few questions about the disappearance of Mingxia Thomas, if you don't mind.

Huang keeps his mouth shut as Ming says her piece, but moves in behind her as she's talking and makes eye contact with the woman she's talking to. The expression he gives Ming and her both says plainly, "I'm the one who usually does the talking around here."

Nic steps up behind Huang, and holds his badge up above his head so the woman can see it clearly. He gives his most pleasant smile.

Nic: Hi! Don't mind the car lights, ma'am. It's just a formality.

The woman looks nervously between the three of you, clearly not suite sure which she should address.

Mrs. Suen: You're here about Mingxia? Oh- please come in. I thought the police had given up on her. I- I thought you might be here because Sarah hasn't been to school these last few days.

She waves the three officers in.

Mrs. Suen: It's hit her pretty hard. They were always so close. I suppose I ought to make her go to school but, well. It makes her so unhappy. I can't put her through that.

Ming steps through the door and follows Mrs. Suen.

[i]Huang follows Ming, lost for a moment in his thoughts.

Dealing with women or girls who had recently been through an emotional trauma, such as sexual assault or the loss of a friend or loved one, has never been Huang's forte. Back on his old team, such people would usually be handled by Meiying, who was more in touch with people's feelings than he generally was. Feelings were a subject that Huang has always had trouble with, which, he muses grimly, was why he hadn't made his own feelings toward Meiying known until it was too goddamn late.

He had been a fool. A goddamn fool.

As he looks across the members of his current team, he knows that one of them will have to deal with Sarah. He doesn't know how Nic is with dealing with girls, but as far as Ming is concerned, Huang can see her and Sarah getting along quite well, especially with Ming's fun-loving personality and the fact that both of them share unusual hair. And the fact that there is still hope in finding Mingxia, and that Sarah is still around to talk to, can't help but lift his spirits somewhat.[/i]

Ming notices Huang looking at her, and smothers a groan. She knows that look ... it's the look of a partner who's about to be sorely disappointed in her.

Mrs. Suen leads the way up the stairs, until she uses a key to open the a third floor door.

Mrs. Suen: Sarah, the police are here again. They want to talk to us.

She turns to the officers.

Mrs. Suen: Can I get you anything to drink?