|By Alan Jack Halverson||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
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|Murder By Moonlight|
May 11, 2016
It was Qing Ru's turn to harass Li this time. Although Li had succeeded in taking a full day's work from him, Qing Ru would be able to work in peace today. Li, on the other hand, had to attend court as a witness in the trial of the Chairman of the Bank of Republic City and his deputy, both of whom had been accused, with significant proof, of grand theft by none other than Li himself.
"You know Li," Qing Ru said as he cleaned up the table from his breakfast and Li changed out of his pajamas in the other room. "I think I'll have a good morning of work today, and then, I think I'll go have lunch with our friend Mr. Wu, it's a shame you can't come."
"Shut up," Li retorted. "The only reason they didn't ask you to testify was because your investigative skills are as refined as a boarcupine's."
"Sorry Li," Qing Ru replied, smirking as he opened his offices for the day, "I don't have time to talk, I've got a full day of work to make up for the last time you took me on an investigation."
Li emerged from his room with his sword and firearm on his hip and rushed to the door to leave the apartment. "I can't talk, I'm going to be late," he muttered as he exited.
"Li," Qing Ru called after him, "you can't take weapons into the courthouse remember!"
"I do as I please!" Li called back as he ran down the stairs to the ground floor and out onto the street.
At this point, Qing Ru could do nothing but shrug, and wait for his first customer to arrive.
Li arrived at the courthouse just minutes before the trial began and he burst through the front doors in a frenzy. Immediately upon entering, he was stopped by the security guards.
"Please," Li said as he tried to push past them, "you must let me through, I'm a key witness in today's trial."
"That's fine sir, but you'll have to give us your weapons," the guard replied.
"Why, it's not like I'm going to kill anyone," Li replied, still trying to force his way through.
"Sir, if you don't comply, we'll have to detain you."
Li finally complied and handed over his sword and firearm. "Fine," he said, "but they better be completely intact when I get them back."
Li took off immediately after and arrived in the courtroom just in time for the trial and seated himself.
"All rise for the honorable Judge Ju Di," the bailiff announced as the judge entered.
Everybody rose except Li who, being seated in the witness section at the very front of the courtroom was quite conspicuous. The judge glared at him, "You are supposed to rise sir."
Li simply sat there and looked at the judge, "My rising is simply a formality and if you wish, as I do, to get this trial over with we will skip this and all further formalities and proceed to the actual presentation of evidence."
The judge acquiesced but with significant reluctance and began the session. "I will now call the first witness a Mr. Li."
Li rose and took the stand prompting the judge to glare yet again.
"The prosecution shall now question the witness," she said, still glaring at Li.
The prosecuting attorney rose and approached the witness stand. "Mr. Li," he said, "could you please explain the circumstances that led you to investigate the theft of an estimated twenty-five million Yuans and the press plates used to print them from the Bank of Republic City."
"It's quite simple, the bank chairman came to ask for my advice the morning after the robbery at the behest of President Raiko."
"This is the same chairman who now stands accused of committing the robbery with the aid of the deputy chairman and two other thieves, one of whom is in custody?"
"And it was you who leveled these accusations?"
"And what led you to accuse these people?"
"Would you like all the details?"
"Yes, but make it brief."
"Very well," Li replied. "Upon entering the bank, I took note of four sets of muddy footprints I also noted the sizes of each shoe and the stride lengths. Two sets of these matched those of the chairman and his deputy. Additionally, the nature of the locks on the front door and the vault indicate that only those who had keys and knew the appropriate combinations could enter, this would narrow the list down to the chairman and his deputy, the only way that it could not have been them would be if the keys had been stolen and someone had carefully watched to discern with absolute certainty and accuracy the necessary combinations to open the front door and the vault. Additionally, a chemical analysis of the mud showed that the perpetrators came from and likely returned to a recent construction site where one of the chairman's warehouses had been constructed for the purposes of his shipping business. There I also found the stolen goods along with one of the assistants who is now willing to testify against the chairman and his deputy."
"So you have solid evidence to corroborate this circumstantial evidence?"
"Yes, that's what I just said, this man is willing to testify against the chairman."
"No further questions your honor," Xin Hua said as he seated himself.
"The defense will now question the witness," the judge announced.
Li on the other hand took no notice of the change of questioner and only observed a tall, suspicious man in Water Tribe garb who rose and left the trial.
It was nearing lunch time and Qing Ru had just finished treating his last customer for the morning and was getting ready to prepare his meal when Mr. Wu appeared in the doorway to the apartment.
"Oh," Qing Ru said with surprise, "I wasn't expecting you. How can I help you?"
"I was just wondering if you wanted to have lunch, I have some business to discuss," Mr. Wu replied.
Qing Ru thought back to his conversation with Li earlier that morning and asked, "Have you been talking to Li?"
"No," Mr. Wu replied, looking puzzled, "why?"
Qing Ru brushed it off, "Oh, nothing, sure, I'll come with you, where are we going?"
"Actually just to my office, I already have some stuff there. Li's welcome too if he wants to come, I also have business to discuss with him."
"He can't come today, he has a trial again, but I can relay the message," Qing Ru replied.
"Certainly, certainly," Mr. Wu replied. "So shall we be off?"
"Sure," Qing Ru said as he followed Mr. Wu out the door which he subsequently locked.
Once at the office, Qing Ru and Mr. Wu met Kagaku and they all sat at a table that had been erected in the middle of the room.
As they sat munching on rice and sipping Jasmine Dragon brand tea Mr. Wu began to speak.
"You know that Kagaku and I are quite grateful for your assistance in catching Verlok's murderer but I noticed, that criminal investigations aren't exactly your forte."
"We have noticed, however," Kagaku interjected, "your talents at providing exotic and yet effective and cheap medical care."
"We've also noticed your business acumen," Mr. Wu continued.
"So," said Kagaku, "we want to make you a partner in our business."
The two veteran businessmen were met with a puzzled look from Qing Ru.
"We want you to join our group and sell medical care, you'll get your own office and can use our lab here for research. We'll put you and Li up in a newer part of the city, the Pink Lotus Housing Development, we own the property. The catch is that you'll probably receive input on your projects from us and will have to pay us back for the house," Kagaku explained.
"The offer is also open to Li of course except that we want him to take care of our criminal investigations branch rather than our medical branch," said Mr. Wu.
Qing Ru finally broke his silence, "You have a medical and a criminal investigations branch?"
"Not yet," Kagaku replied, "but we were hoping those would begin with you and Li."
Qing Ru was struck dumb and he sat in silence for a moment, obviously contemplating the offer he had just received. He finally spoke, "When do I start?"
At that Kagaku and Mr. Wu cheered, "Welcome to the group Qing Ru, our lawyer will get all the details worked out and write up a new contract for the partnership which we'll all sign, but first you'll need to get an answer from Li," Mr. Wu said.
"Now though," Kagaku continued, "let's eat, and celebrate! I think I have some sake in my desk."
What had started out as a lunch date turned business meeting had finally ended in an hours long drinking party and Qing Ru didn't get back to the apartment until late.
Li was already home but Qing Ru took little notice on account of his being unusually drunk. "I see you ate with Mr. Wu after all," Li said. "And you drank unusually large quantities of sake."
"What do you mean 'unusual'?" Qing Ru asked. "I never drink sake."
"Exactly," Li replied, "unusually large quantities."
"So Li," Qing Ru began.
"No," Li interrupted as he rose from his chair and proceeded to his room to change into his pajamas.
"But you haven't even heard what I was going to ask," Qing Ru complained.
"No," Li replied, "because I already knew what you were going to ask."
"And what was I going to ask?"
"You were going to ask me if I would take Mr. Wu's offer to be partners in his business, how do I know this? You were just with him and you were drinking. Now you never drink and you're very compulsive about getting your work done, but you didn't come back to your 'office' this afternoon so you must have been having quite a celebration. Conclusion, you were celebrating the business agreement you had just made with Mr. Wu and Kagaku. How do I know that that business agreement was to partner with them and that you were going to ask me the same thing? Simple, they already asked me and I told them no, and no... means no."
Qing Ru hadn't really paid much attention to the explanation but gathered that Li's answer would be no and that was final. He thus decided to change the subject, "So how was the trial today?"
"Awful as usual but I think that the chairman and his deputy will have a nice prison stay thanks to our criminal turned informant. Who knows, we may even be able to use them to find this Master of theirs."
"You really think that the Master is a real person?" Qing Ru asked.
"Well Verlok's murderer seemed to think that he was employed by him and our witness in the robbery case corroborates the allegation that the Master is some kind of criminal mastermind."
"That's two people, Li."
"Perhaps, but further investigation may reveal the truth."
"You mean a dark spirit."
Li was confused and poked his head out of his room, "Excuse me?"
"You know, a dark spirit for you to slay."
"I'm flattered that that's what you think of me."
"It's what you think of yourself. On another note completely, are you going back tomorrow?"
"No, I've been dismissed by the judge, partly because I've answered all the questions of both the prosecution and defense and partly because the judge thinks I'm an 'impudent vulturewasp with no respect for the authority of the Republic,' her exact words."
"I guess then you'll have to find another case tomorrow," Qing Ru commented.
"Yes I shall, and I'll have to take you with me again."
"No you won't, I have an engagement, I'm starting up my partnership remember."
"How unfortunate," Li replied as he closed his door and audibly collapsed on his bed.
Qing Ru then proceeded to his own bed and likewise fell asleep.
By the time Li awakened the next morning, Qing Ru had already left. It was later than Li usually woke up and the sun was already peaking through closed blinds. As Li prepared his breakfast he heard a knock on the door. "It's a bit late for the morning paper," he said to himself as he proceeded to the apartment door in his pajamas. As he opened the door he expected to find a copy of the morning paper laying on the ground in front of him, instead he found two officers from the Republic City Police Department. "Good morning officers," Li said, not showing his surprise. "How can I help you."
"You need to come with us sir, there's been a development with the Bank of Republic City case," the tall officer said.
"I don't have to go back to trial again do I?" Li asked. "I thought Judge Ju Di made it clear that I was not to return."
"No sir," the shorter one replied, "one of the witnesses for the prosecution is dead."
Li grew serious. "Which one?" he asked.
"The waterbender who agreed to testify against the chairman and his deputy."
"And why come to me?"
"Because sir," replied the tall one, "we suspect foul play."
The two metalbending officers opened the waterbender's cell and allowed Li in to inspect the crime scene. He looked around the corpse searching for any sign that the man was murdered. He found none. He next moved to the corpse and found no penetration points or burns, he did note that rigor mortis had set in and he put the time of death to about three in the morning. Li's next hypothesis was that the man had been poisoned but could find no traces in the room. Li rose, "It seems that if he had been murdered it would most likely be by poison, but we'd need to do an autopsy to be certain." Li left the room and looked outside the cell for any signs of an intruder but found none. "I'd like to speak to the guard who was on duty at three this morning."
The short officer left and at Li's request returned with the guard who was on duty at the time Li thought the murder had occurred.
Li noticed that he was not in uniform anymore and inquired as to the reason. "Why are you not in uniform?"
The guard's escort replied for him, "He's been fired."
"Fired? Why?" Li asked.
"He let the murderer past when he fell asleep on his shift."
"It wasn't my fault," the guard protested, "I've never fallen asleep before but it seemed as if something just gripped me all of a sudden."
Li appeared disappointed, "So you can't tell me much then."
"Other than it was an uneventful night, just like normal."
"Apparently not that uneventful," the short officer retorted.
"Yes," Li replied as he gazed blankly at the far wall. "Without this witness, the entire case against the chairman will fall, the Master will never be revealed and all this effort will have been pointless." Li thought a little longer while the other three just stared at him in bewilderment. Finally, Li returned from his trip to the far reaches of his mind, "I was wondering officer," he said to the tall officer, "could I please have the body, I'd like to do further examination that I can't do with the equipment I have here."
"What equipment?" the officer asked.
"Precisely," Li replied. "So, may I have the body?"
"I suppose, but I don't see what you could possibly do with it."
"Let's just say I've been looking into some unconventional means of investigation. That is, after all, what I specialize in."
"Very well," the officer replied, "but you have to move him."
"Fair enough," Li replied. "May I have access to your phone?"
The short officer led Li to the nearest phone and he phoned Mr. Wu.
"Hello?" Mr. Wu's voice called through the earpiece.
"Hello Mr. Wu, it's Li, I was wondering if you would tell me where Qing Ru's office is."
"Well, I have a body I want him to 'dissect' is what he calls it."
"Yeah, he cuts it open and investigates the insides, it's really quite fascinating if a bit smelly."
"Hmm," Mr. Wu thought, "perhaps that would be better done at our lab, you just bring it over and we'll call Qing Ru over."
"Okay, thank you," Li replied as he began to hang up the mouthpiece.
"On one of two conditions," Mr. Wu said.
Li paused and returned the mouthpiece to his mouth. "What are these conditions?"
"Either you become a partner or you start paying for lab services, you are after all making use of our time and other resources, it's only just that we should get something in return."
"Fair enough, I'll start paying, we can discuss the details when I arrive," Li hung up and then proceeded back to the cell and began to drag the corpse out and onto the street where he hailed a cab. Once he got one he put the body in first and then got in himself. "You'll have to pardon the smell, he's been dead for a few hours already and I'm just taking him to be dissected."
The cab driver was obviously concerned but agreed to take his two passengers anyway, "Where to sir?"
Li, amused with his own sick joke simply smiled.
Li met Qing Ru and Mr. Wu in the lab. "First thing's first," he said, "can I get help with the body, it's still in the cab?"
"No, first thing is to discuss our fee," Mr. Wu replied. "That corpse doesn't come in here until you've paid up, or become a partner."
"Fine, what's the damage?"
"Sixty Yuans starting fee and then the rest that gets added on will be directly proportional to the cost of the materials you use."
"Fine, now can I get help with the body?"
"Sure," Qing Ru said as he followed Li out of the lab.
They both returned to the lab with the body, Li was carrying the feet and Qing Ru was carrying the torso. They set the dead man down on the lab table and Qing Ru put on an apron a pair of gloves and a makeshift respirator. Li simply stood observing.
"You'll either have to leave or put on some protection Li," Qing Ru said.
"Why can't I just stand here?"
"Because this is a fresh corpse and unlike the preserved rat-monkeys you've watched me work on, this is a biohazard, so either leave or put on some protection."
Li did as he was told and watched attentively as Qing Ru sharpened his knives and began to open the body. He passed over the areas where Li had shot him before his arrest, there were still some bone fragments and bits of bullet that the waterbenders at the hospital lacked the skill to fix. After an hour or so of cutting, inspecting, writing notes and muttering to himself Qing Ru looked up from the corpse and spoke. "There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with him, other than the parts where you shot him he's perfectly healthy and fine."
"That can't be right," Li replied.
"I know, but I can't find anything and I'm the one who invented this process."
"People don't just up and die Qing Ru, there had to be a cause!"
"I don't know what to tell you."
"Have you checked his skull?"
"Yes Li, that's why I basically scalped him, I thought you'd notice the giant bowl of skull lying on the table."
"What about inside his brain?"
"Li, there's only so much you can cut into an organ without ruining the valuable information that it can render."
"I know, but when you show me rat-monkey brains they are always split into two hemispheres, can't we do the same thing with this man's brain?"
"I suppose, but I'd have to be very careful."
"Then take care."
Qing Ru then proceeded to remove the brain and split it in two. Upon completion of this task, he noticed something remarkable. "Well, well," he said.
"What? What is it?" Li asked.
"It looks like this man had quite the rupture in his blood vessels."
Li moved around to the side Qing Ru was on, there he saw a large, dark red ball about the size of his fist. "What is that?" Li asked pointing to the ball.
"That, is a blood clot, this man had a massive stroke, I've never heard of anything like this happening."
"That's probably because you're the first anatomist."
"Still, for the brain to bleed this much before clotting is entirely unexpected."
"Could it have been poison?"
"Not likely, I didn't find anything in his system."
"Isn't it possible though that this is some form of poison you're just unfamiliar with?"
Qing Ru thought for a moment and then replied, "Perhaps, but if it was poison, you would have expected it to cause ruptures in multiple places rather than one big rupture in the brain. In all likelihood, this was just a natural occurrence resulting from a weakening of the surrounding tissue."
Li was of course disappointed and refused to take this as an answer. "No, there has to be more to it."
"Why are you so intent on making this a criminal activity?" Qing Ru asked.
"There are a number of reasons," Li replied. "First is that if I don't find the murderer, assuming there is one, the case against the chairman drops, no case, no conviction because the only other thing I've got on him is circumstantial. No conviction, no payment."
"Payment?" Qing Ru asked. "Who's going to pay you and with what? This is a public case and in case you haven't noticed, you aren't in the public sector."
"I struck a deal with the president, I precisely calculated the amount of extraneous taxes I would pay this year and told him to not charge me for those, in addition, I got him to order the new chairman of the Bank of Republic City to stop printing Yuans for six months."
"But that would cause deflation."
"And?" Li replied.
"Well, won't that be bad for the republic as a whole?"
"Well, tell me this Qing Ru, is it good for you that you won't lose any purchasing power for six months?"
"Won't it be good for anyone else earning their living, trying to scrape by with as much accumulated wealth as possible at the end of each month to ward off starvation?"
"I suppose so."
"Aren't these poor people the very same that you serve on a daily basis, and aren't these people in the majority within the Republic as opposed to the minority of powerful politicians who claim to represent them?"
"Why then, Qing Ru, would it be bad for the Republic, which depends on the well being of the majority, if such deflation is good for the majority of people in the Republic?"
"I suppose it would be good."
"Good, though the reality is a bit more complex than that but that's not important now."
"If such a thing was so good though Li," Qing Ru began, "why did you stop at six months?"
"Believe me, I wanted to completely end the central banking system altogether, but I had to compromise some or else I would have ratted out a criminal with no pay at all."
"Fair enough," Qing Ru replied.
"The second reason, I want to catch the 'murderer' is that's the only way I'll be able to get to the Master and potentially bring down a worldwide criminal network."
"Assuming the Master is a real person."
"Yes, that's what I'm doing."
Qing Ru simply rolled his eyes as Li had completely missed the point of his statement. "Well, Li, I can't do anything more for you, so I'm just going to clean up here and then go back to the office and get back to setting things up there."
Li, still quite obviously disappointed, simply nodded and left as Qing Ru began to clean up the cadaver.
When Qing Ru returned to the apartment that evening, he found Li in his chair just sitting and thinking. "Have you been sitting there the whole day?" he asked.
Li looked up as he abruptly left his self-induced trance. "So I have," he said as he looked out the window to see the sun descending over the bay. "I was thinking about the case, and at first, I decided that you were correct in that our cadaver was made such by a failure of his own health. I thus proceeded to consider my options for collecting further evidence to hopefully secure a conviction for our friends the chairman and his deputy. I considered many options but none of them furnished me with any definite direction. It then occurred to me that perhaps you were incorrect. After all, that would be quite the coincidence if the very man who was key to convicting the chairman and would also be able to lead us to the Master suddenly died the day before he was supposed to appear at the trial and that his death should be caused by some massive, previously unforeseen 'health complication' and that the night of his death, the guard watching him, for the first time ever, 'happens' to fall asleep. So, I decided to do something different than my M.O. I decided to discern the motive first. The motive was to silence the confessor of course. But why? Simple, so he doesn't spill anything on the chairman and his deputy so they can get off scot free and go back to living. But I then encountered another problem. They can't just go back to living, the press is like a bloodhound with a nose for scandal and they don't care whether the evidence is circumstantial or not, they'll print it and considering that even the circumstantial evidence is telling, it's extremely likely that the public will believe what gets printed meaning the chairman and his deputy would be lucky to get jobs as janitors in a tea shop. Thus, I needed a new motive. So I asked myself, 'What if the motive was to silence this man, but not for the sake of the chairman and his deputy, perhaps for the sake of someone else?' It then occurred to me that if this were the case, the chairman and his deputy would also need to be silenced. Thus, I concluded, if all my previous musings were accurate, the murderer would strike again, and strike again soon to reduce the probability of the accused spilling the beans so to speak."
Qing Ru simply looked at Li and then spoke, "And how do you know your musings are accurate?"
"That's the thing," Li replied, "I don't. At this point it's mere speculation but I haven't got much of a choice right now, I have no other proof of foul play and I can't get anything else on the chairman and his deputy that might secure a conviction."
"Oh well," Qing Ru replied looking to change the subject. "Listen, Li, I'm moving out today, you know, on account of that house Mr. Wu offered me, I'm just going to be packing up here and then shipping out, there's a Satomobile waiting outside for me."
Li looked up. "But you can't just leave," he protested. "Now I have to pay the full rent."
"If you partnered at least on some things with Mr. Wu and Kagaku, then maybe you wouldn't have to worry about paying rent. Or, if you're set on living in this downtown dump, then maybe you can find someone else to split the rent with you, I on the other hand have been searching for opportunities all my life and now that things are finally starting to look up, I'm not going to turn them down flat out."
"Fine," Li replied bitterly. "Go tend to your silly little office and your silly little house in your silly little partnership and I'll just stay here and languish."
Li of course had failed to realize that Qing Ru had already left and that he had in fact sat still for an additional hour and a half. Once he came back to his senses, Li realized that he must be tired and chose to retire for the night and see what the morning brought.
Li had just finished his breakfast and was sitting in his chair fully dressed and ready for the day just waiting for a knock on his door. He was not disappointed. Before the caller had time to knock twice, Li had sprung up from his chair and opened the door to find the same two officers who had escorted him to the prison the previous day.
"Let me guess," he said, "there's been another death."
"Yes," the taller officer replied somewhat confused.
"Which one?" Li asked, but then changed his mind. "Actually, never mind which one, just bring the body to this address," Li grabbed a piece of paper and pen and scribbled down the address of Mr. Wu's lab and handed it to the taller officer. "I'll grab it there and have a friend of mine take a look at it."
Once he had finished, Li quickly squeezed past the two officers and locked his door and then dashed downstairs and hailed a cab.
By the time Qing Ru had met Li at Mr. Wu's lab, the corpse had arrived in a body bag. Qing Ru unzipped it to reveal the body of the deputy chairman. "Now that is coincidental," he remarked.
"Check his brain first. I have a hunch that there will be a similar blood clot in almost the exact same place," Li commanded.
"Patience, Li, we can't afford to damage too many of the important tissues."
Li stood rooted with anticipation as Qing Ru began to cut into the deputy chairman's skull.
A few minutes later, Qing Ru was removing and splitting the brain apart. Li's face lit up as the two halves of the brain were separated revealing a blood clot almost identical to the one in the previous day's victim. "Perfect," Li said to himself.
"Okay, all this indicates though is an even bigger coincidence," Qing Ru replied.
"Too big a coincidence Qing Ru. I'll bet that the guard on duty also fell asleep."
"I don't see the significance," Qing Ru replied still confused.
"That's why you're a doctor and I'm the one who extrapolates from incomplete data. You see, what was last night? I'll tell you. It was a full moon," Li said excitedly.
"And, Qing Ru, the night before was also a full moon, and tonight won't be a full moon, but it will be close enough."
"Close enough for what?" Qing Ru asked.
"For bloodbending. Traditionally, bloodbending could only happen with a full moon but it's conceivable that if the moon is close enough to full, it might still be possible, stranger things have happened. Additionally, bloodbending has been traditionally used to control people, but, since it controls the water within the body, it's certainly possible to use it as a murder weapon and, to cause someone, say a night guard, to pass out, creating the appearance of sleep."
"But you can't get proof," Qing Ru protested.
Li paused, and then returned from his musings, "You bet I can!"
With that he dashed out and paid the requisite lab fees to Mr. Wu's secretary.
Li burst into the police station in a frenzy, catching the officers on duty quite by surprise. "I need to see a prisoner!"
"I'm sorry sir," replied the secretary. "You need to set up an appointment."
"There's no time for that, I need to get in, interrogate him, and then set a trap."
"Sir, you're not making any sense, you need to slow down."
"Fine." Li paused. "I've just acquired some information that may lead to a conclusion to our murder mystery regarding the deputy chairman and his alleged accomplice as well as a conviction for the former chairman of the Bank of Republic City, but it all requires that I get in an interrogation room with the chairman and interview him and I need to do it soon because after tonight it will be too late."
"And who are you who claims to have such knowledge of a high profile case?" asked the secretary with some sarcasm.
"I'm the lead investigator called for both cases and if you don't give me what I need to finish this the failure will be on your head."
The secretary's smirk left her face and she finally relented. "Very well sir, if you'll just sit here for a moment, I ought to have it cleared in an hour."
Li relaxed slightly and sat in the indicated chair and disappeared into his mind for the hour it took for the whole interview to be cleared with the higher-ups.
"Sir," the secretary called from her desk drawing Li out of his musings. "If you'll just follow officer Yin, she'll take you to the interrogation room."
Li rose and did as he was directed and he soon found himself in a small room with a single table and two chairs underneath a single lamp. In one chair sat the chairman who was cuffed to the table. The other chair was empty and so Li took it. On the wall to Li's left was a one way window. After Li sat, he surreptitiously switched on a small recording device which he then concealed under the table.
"Hello chairman," Li began, "it's nice to see you again."
"You are quite obviously being insincere Li, so why don't you just get to the point and tell me why you're here because I'm sure not going to tell you anything to secure my conviction now that the alleged accomplice is dead."
"Very well chairman. If you know that your accomplice is dead, then you should certainly know by now that your deputy is dead."
The chairman's smug look changed to one of concern. "You're lying!"
"No chairman, I'm not," Li replied as he took out a newspaper that he had found while he was waiting. "See here," Li pointed to an article in the paper after he pushed it in front of the chairman. "Coincidentally, it was the same cause of death as your accomplice, a massive hemorrhage in the brain. Oddly enough, the hemorrhages were in almost exactly the same spot. Now my friend who did the autopsy thinks that it's just coincidence. I on the other hand am of the opinion that although it is quite possible this is a coincidence, it is highly improbable and that someone is trying to silence all three of you who were caught. And I think that you know who it is that's trying to murder you."
"Nonsense!" the chairman shouted.
"Very well then, just remember, you're next and if you don't tell us who's after you, then I can't do anything to protect you."
"If I say anything then you'll have the evidence you wanted to convict me, but since I'm innocent I can't tell you anything because I don't know it."
"Fine," Li replied. "I suppose we'll see if that's true tomorrow morning. After all, if I'm correct, then tonight will be your last night on Earth, unless you tell us who he is and how to stop him. You have five seconds chairman. Five seconds before I walk out of here and never return, five seconds before your fate is sealed."
Li began to count in his head. He could tell the chairman was torn between maintaining his innocence and maintaining his life. The chairman began to sweat until he finally cried out, "Alright! I'll talk."
"And just in time too, you had one second left," replied Li, cool as ever.
"His name is Yakoda, he's the Master's right hand man, whenever there's a dirty job that needs done, the Master sends him around. He's also the messenger."
"How did you come to know him and the Master?"
"He's the one who set us up with the grunts to help us rob the bank."
"And his M.O. I assume is to use bloodbending to cause hemorrhages in the brains of his victims."
"Now that I have confirmation of this and proof, I can better help protect you tonight, if only to send you to prison following the court case." Li stood up and removed his recorder and left the room, satisfied that he had acquired all he needed to know. He strode up to the secretary's desk. "I need to speak to the chief of police, it's very important."
"I'm afraid that's not possible, she's not in Republic City right now and won't be for quite some time."
"Then I need to speak with whoever is in charge around here today so I can catch this murderer," Li replied angrily.
"Very well sir." The secretary then picked up her phone and dialed a number.
Li could hear an irritated voice coming over the phone and thought the manner was very familiar only to realize a few moments later why.
"Okay sir, yes sir, I'll tell him to wait." Once the secretary had finished she looked up at Li. "Officer Shu will be with you momentarily, if you'll just wait here. He'll also be bringing a squad of police with him to assist you."
Li's heart sank as he sat once again in the chair he had spent the past hour or so in. It was quite unfortunate that Shu should be assigned to this but at this point, Li didn't have much of a choice.
Night had fallen and the moon was approaching its zenith. Li stood concealed in the shadows of the nearly abandoned prison along with twelve other men all of whom had been handpicked by officer Shu who was also lying in wait for the killer. Li had his firearm drawn and was taking short shallow breaths so as not to make too much noise. For a moment he caught himself drifting back into deep thought about the events of the day, particularly his conversation with the prosecuting attorney for the Bank of Republic City case. He promptly forced himself out of his musings though because he could not risk losing the killer.
Suddenly, before him, a suspicious figure in Water Tribe garb crept forth from the shadows and entered the prison. Li recognized him as the man he had seen in court just the other day.
Li likewise began to emerge from the shadows to confront the murderer but he was unexpectedly cut off by one of officer Shu's men who lunged toward the waterbender and attempted to capture him with his metal cables.
The murderer, now made aware of the presence of the police quickened his pace and dashed down the corridor to the chairman's prison cell.
"What are you doing fools!" Li shouted at the policemen who had just emerged from their hiding places only to stand there idly. "After him before he kills the chairman." Li rushed after the murderer, but to his dismay, no one followed him.
By the time Li had reached the cell, so too had the murderer and officer Shu. Li raised his firearm and took aim but before he could pull the trigger, Shu launched a metal cable around the murderer's neck and snapped it.
"Open the cell!" Li shouted at Shu.
Shu complied but when Li got in, he found it was too late. The chairman was limp as a boned koi.
Li turned to the chairman who was now surrounded by the rest of his men. "You set this up," Li snarled. "You handpicked your men so they would do your bidding so you could have the murderer kill the chairman and then you could kill the murderer all so you didn't have to face the press about how your endorsement for chair was as corrupt as you are."
Officer Shu smirked, "And what are you going to do about it? Accuse me, take me to court? I think you'll find that a difficult task considering that there are only fourteen witnesses to this whole event and thirteen of them are quite willing to testify that it was in fact you who set up this grand finale. Speak one word that's contrary to the official story and I can destroy your reputation and send you to prison and perhaps even the executioner."
Li set his jaw and acquiesced. He had been beat this time, but at least he could get satisfaction out of knowing that Shu wasn't completely scot free. Li returned to the conversation he had had with the prosecuting attorney earlier that day.
"Make sure you keep this recording safe and only present it at the trial," Li had told him.
"You don't want Officer Shu to be able to seize and destroy this because he will if he can."
"What is it?" the attorney had asked.
"It's a confession from the chairman, present this and no matter what happens tonight, we have a conviction, even if it's posthumous."
As he hung his head in defeat he smirked slightly himself. "Very well Officer," he replied. "I won't say a word."
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