Scene 9: Thomas Residence, Tuen Mun

Dispatcher: Understood. I'll request an additional ambulance. Has there been a massacre or something?

[i]Huang sweeps the room, noting nothing particularly suspicious. There's a half-drunk mug of coffee on the night-stand, still warm, which Aaron may have put down before he fell or been left by another person.

The landing is wide, and has quite a few doors leading off it. Huang swiftly sweeps through them- Mingxia's room, the bathroom and two guest bedrooms- without finding anything that leaps out at him. One guest bedroom is in use- presumably by Aaron's brother. The upper floor is deserted.

Outside, Ming hold her shotgun in one hand and pulls on a handle of the trap door. It moves, seemingly unlocked, but is too heavy for her to lift one-handed. She leans her shotgun against the wall and heaves with all her strength, opening one of the doors with a loud creak, muffled by the surrounding foliage. She swiftly recovers her gun and peers down.

There is a set of concrete steps leading into some sort of cellar or coal bunker underneath the house. There are no lights that Ming can see. (Police: 9+2=11) Ming can see, however, that the opened door has fresh oil on its hinges.[/i]

Turning the sound off on her phone, Ming sends a quick text message to her partners ... "Found cellar door. Going in." She digs a maglight flashlight out of her cavernous satchel and takes to the stairs, shotgun in hand, as quietly as possible.

[i]Huang travels down the stairs. Halfway through, his cell phone starts vibrating, and he answers it and gets Ming's message. Nodding his head, he continues down.

Finding Nic at the entrance with the gardener and James Thomas out cold, Huang holsters his Beretta and rushes over to him.[/i]

Huang: I've just given the upper level a good sweep. Mr. Thomas is out cold in the master bedroom, and there's no sign of Yunru. Either somebody poisoned his coffee or somebody flew in through the window and put a spell on him. Ming's just found some kind of cellar. I'm going to check the lower level of this place and then we're headed down.

Huang unslings the bag on his back and zips it open. He reaches inside and pulls out the Mossberg, racking the slide with a loud KA-CHAK! to put a shell in the chamber. Then he puts the little flashlight away and switches on the bigger light that's attached to the underside of the shotgun and goes in to sweep the lower level of the house.

Nic reads Ming's text as he hears Huang coming down from the upper floor of the house. He figures both of the Mr. Thomas' are well enough to leave alone until help arrives. After Huang informs him of his plan to sweep the lower floor, Nic texts back to Ming Shi:

Text: Hey, M, don't get too rowdy. I'll help check cellar for magic or other things that go ZAP.

He then jogs out of the house and around the foliage to find Ming Shi and the cellar.

Ming receives Nic's text message and tosses her head in annoyance.

Ming thinks: Hah! I find something interesting and they're suddenly right behind me, ready to elbow in on the fun. Not this time!

She finishes duct taping the maglight to her shotgun and continues down into the dark alone ...

[i]Huang does a rapid sweep of the ground floor. It confirms what he already suspected- there's no-one else in the house awake or asleep. When he's satisfied that there's no-one lurking in any of the corners, he heads back to the front door and gingerly steps over the prone bodies.

Nic jogs around the side of the house, and actually misses to hydrangea on his first pass, jogging back from the rear of the house when he realises he's gone too far. He finds the trap door with one panel open, and dim light playing about on the floor through it. There's no immediate sign of Ming.

In the cellar, Ming advances with as much caution as she can muster. It's clearly been used for some time, with stack of mouldering cardboard boxes filled with old magazines and forgotten kick-knacks. A path has been cleared through the middle, where some of the stacks had collapsed. There's an empty light fitting dangling from the ceiling that's home to a large spider.

As she rounds one stack of boxes, she sees a large oil-fired boiler, long dormant. It's firebox is filled with moss, and the accompanying water pipes have been removed. There is, however, a large flue behind it. Beyond the boiler there is a wall. There are two doors, one that seems to lead to behind the boiler, and another that leads further under the house.[/i]

Ming looks at the doors and at the floor around them, trying to discover from displaced cobwebs, rusty hinges, disturbed dust and suchlike which one looks like it's been used recently.

[i]Huang heads outside then circles around, trying to retrace the steps that Nic took and trying to find where the hell Nic is at. He sweeps the light on the underside of the shotgun this way and that as he makes his way to the back again, trying to find Nic and the trap door that Ming mentioned earlier.

Huang frowns. Ming's probably getting into some kind of mischief in that cellar, and he figures it's only a matter of time before she manages to get herself into big-time trouble.[/i]

[i]Huang dashes back and forth in front of the hydrangea, reaching the back and returning. He ends up with his back to it, scratching his head.

Downstairs, as far as Ming can tell [/i]both doors have been opened fairly recently. There are scuff marks on the floor and disturbed dust to suggest so. In fact, the one leading behind the boiler is very slightly ajar.

Ming internally to herself: Eeny, Meeny, Miney, MOE!

Ming heads for the door behind the boiler.

Nic whistles sharply at Huang, whom Nic can hear rustling around in the brush.

Nic: Not that we should be surprised, but Ming's down below already. I haven't heard screaming or the sound of fluttering paper or grinding bricks, so I assume she's not stumbled into anything nasty yet.

Nic heads down into the dimness, following the sounds and the flashlight illumination coming from Ming's direction.

Huang has no problem locating Nic as the other one whistles to catch his attention. As he listens to Nic's speech, Huang shakes his head.

Huang: Excuse me if that doesn't exactly fill me with confidence, Nic.

He follows Nic down, letting him lead, but keeping the shotgun ready in case anything nasty rears its head.

[i]Nic and Huang venture down the stairs into the cellar. They can see flickering reflected light, presumably from Ming's torch, guiding their way through the maze of stacked boxes. The spider, disturbed is dangling from a thin strand at around head height. Nic carefully dodges around it, while Huang swats at it in annoyance. They hear the slow creak of reluctant hinges, and the light ahead dims just as they come into sight of the old boiler.

Ming, shines her torch around the room. There are bare wooden floorboards, warped with age. The walls are crumbling concrete, one of which has a number of small holes in it leading into the flue from the boiler. There is a dirty pallet lying on the floor, and someone has been scratching marks into the wall.[/i]

Ming investigates the scratches on the wall.

[i]She leans close to the floor, the door closing slightly on its hinges behind her with another creak.

The scratches look like tally marks made with a small stone. Whoever was down here only counted as far as three.[/i]

Huang sees the open door behind the boiler.

Huang: Looks like this is where she came in. Be ready for anything.

And with that, he heads through until he finds Ming.

Ming looks up from where she's inspecting the pallet.

Ming: SHHHhhh! You guys are gonna wake the dead! Err ... or something. NOT the dead ... forget I said that.

Ming shudders expressively.

Huang whips out his digital camera and begins taking pictures.

Huang: Whoever was here is long gone. Ming, I want you to collect some samples off that pallet. Nic, I want you to see if you can find whatever made those marks on the wall so you can use it for your divination thing.

Huang kneels down and examines the marks. People generally use wall markings to mark how many days they've been in that room, and he's seen both cons in prison and people who have been kidnapped use this general means of keeping time.

Huang: Three days...

Section 44 had only been assigned to this case for a day, meaning that if Mingxia was here, which he strongly suspected that she was, whichever Thomas family member was hiding her was doing so right out from under their goddamn noses. But which one was it?

Huang: Mr. Thomas is out cold in the master bedroom. Looked like he was sleeping, but his clothes were still on. The other Mr. Thomas and the gardener are right out at the front door, also out cold. And Yunru is currently unaccounted for.

[i]Huang ruled out both Thomas men immediately, as they had both been found unconscious, in addition to several other people. But Yunru Thomas was not among them. She had disappeared seemingly without a trace. Mingxia had mentioned a "she" in her message to her father. He knew that her father didn't have any problems with her, but they hadn't even spoken to the mother because she had all but shut herself into her room.

Huang's eyes go dark as he recalls a particular passage from the I Ching.[/i]

Huang: Firm seclusion within the family...remorse disappears...(gritting his teeth) Ta ma de hun dan...

He grips the shotgun's forend tightly. Huang's suspicions now rested upon the mother of the family. But there was only one way to be sure...

Huang: Ming, once you're done collecting samples, I want you to find the security tapes for today. I need to be sure.

Nic kneels near the scratch marks, and peers along the floor for the item that made them. He also looks about for vents, ducts, or holes in the concrete walls.

Nic: You know, if there's a way for sound to carry up to the house, then that's probably why Mr. Thomas heard his daughter's voice. Nic mutters a guilty mumble to himself. Cripes, I have a tendency to go right for supernatural explanations, and I didn't even think of the girl being this close to the house!

Nic: Ming, if you're going for the tapes, I'll go with you to check on the Thomas men. I want to know what they saw, and the med team should be here in a moment. If they men don't come around on their own, I want to wake them with some smelling salts. Also, I need to find out what type of car Yunru drives. We need to put out a bulletin to local forces to keep an eye out.

Huang: There was a Jag parked in the driveway when we first arrived. Hard to miss something that high caliber. It may have belonged to the Thomases or it may have belonged to James. There were two more cars, and I'm thinking one bike in the drive when we were called about the disturbance, but I'm thinking those were the ones driven by our would-be exorcists.

I'm going to head outside and see about finding that Jag. If it's not there, then Yunru probably took it before the gate got shut.