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|The Other Fire Lord|
-1 (Blood & Steel)
Saturday, July 2, 2016
The firebending assailant turned out to be a man with a shaved head, sideburns and pointed beard framing his face. A tattoo of entwined dragons, crimson and cerulean, coiled around his neck, their heads meeting at his throat to breathe fire at each other. He now sat in charcoal slacks and vest over an off-white cotton shirt, hands cuffed behind his back. His amber eyes glowered at the Rakshashis, seated across from him in the interrogation room.
"An Agni Kai speeding through the Dragon Flats in a stolen car," Phorcys noted, setting down the clipboard he was reading, "Were you in a hurry to get away from Triple Threats?"
"I robbed a store," he said, rolling his eyes, "You know that."
"Yes, you admitted that pretty quickly. And you could redirect lightning despite your, forgive me, very rough talent."
"You think I'm taking the fall for someone more important," he summarized, "And you want me squeal on 'em."
"Wow, you're smarter than you look," Euryale quipped in her best tough cop voice, leaning back and folding her arms.
"Honey, please," her father cautioned.
"Honey?" the man asked, raising an eyebrow, "He's old enough to be your dad!"
"He is my dad, you degenerate."
He snickered. "Well, if that's what you're into."
He flinched as Euryale shot up, knocking her chair over and rearing her fist back threateningly. But then she closed her eyes, breathing deeply through her nose, and let her now-relaxed hand fall to her side. She stomped, the chair flinging itself back to its legs, allowing her to resume her seat.
"You won't rile us up so easily," Phorcys said sternly, with a kind of sidelong glance that told Euryale "That is, if you want to stay in here instead of going to see internal affairs." She nodded, but otherwise kept her face passive and resumed her earlier posture, trying to pretend not to notice his accusing stare.
"Riiiiight," the criminal said with another eye roll, "Anyway, you can forget it. I'm no snitch."
"Out of loyalty or fear for your life?"
He did not answer, merely glared at Euryale, who glared back. Eventually, her father grabbed the clipboard and stood up. "Fine, have it your way," he said tersely, "I'll send someone to take you back to your cell. When I get around to it. Good luck in court. You're going to need it."
"What, that's it?" Euryale asked in astonishment, though she moved to follow him out. "Sorry," she added in a whisper, after her father shot another glare at her.
He sealed the door behind them. After walking a few paces down the hall, he turned around, looking livid as he pointed at her.
"You have to have better control over your emotions if you want to work in this business! What were you thinking, blurting out whatever popped into your head?! All you did was undermine your partner and let the suspect know he was getting to you! Don't you think they'll want to use that to their advantage? They'd just love a chance to prove the department incompetent or corrupt! In the worst case, you could lose your badge, cost the department thousands of yuans, and they could walk free!"
Not one to back down, Euryale leaned forward, balled her fists, and shouted back, "I was thinking he'd get away with it if we didn't get something out of him!"
Phorcys snarled, nostrils widening, but then he sighed deeply and his expression softened. His eyes twinkled as he looked at his daughter, "Your heart's in the right place, but you need to use your head more. Most suspects you have won't spill their guts in the 1st interrogation. Fortunately, we have other avenues to look for clues."
"Oh yeah?" she asked snottily. "Like what?"
"Think about it," her mentor said calmly, "If he won't tell us what's going on...."
"...The other Agni Kais might?" she asked, slowly relaxing, "Or maybe even the Triple Threats?"
"Good job. But just remember, your future superiors won't be as willing as I am to take cheek."
"...Sorry," she whispered again, staring at her feet.
"Now, let's go."
"And what can I get for you fine officers today?" a man in a long, leafy green robe whistled through the slight gap at the front of his smile. His eyes matched his outfit, but his hair was dull brown and thinning, cropped close to his squarish head. "Doughnuts, perhaps?" he added, passing a pair of menus over his podium that they did not take.
"Actually, we were hoping we could sit down to lunch with the manager," Phorcys answered, "We've got a few things we'd like to ask him."
"Oh, sooo sorry," he responded with painfully stressed fake sympathy, "But the boss has already eaten."
"I'm sure he can find a little room for dessert," the detective argued casually, leaning against the podium. "We're here to talk about the firebenders who've been threatening his fine, law-abiding establishment."
The man finally dropped his fake smile, eyes narrowing. "I see. In that case, I'll ask him if he's busy."
As the host headed off, Phorcys joined his daughter in looking around, saying, "See anything suspicious? And do try to act casual."
Euryale stopped craning her neck and rocking around on her heels, instead imitating her father's casual stance, fingers drumming on the counter with only the occasional glance at the patronage. Of course, most of the restaurant was hidden from view, but Euryale saw several circular tables with off-white cloths, islands amidst a sea of red, green, and blue suits and dresses, glinting brightly beneath the hanging crystal light fixtures.
"Not even a health code violation," she answered, "This place is way more upscale than I'd imagined."
"'Lightning Bolt' Zolt didn't get his moniker for not being flashy."
"I thought he got it because he can generate powerful bolts of lightning."
"Missing the point."
Eventually, the man returned. "The boss will see you now," he confirmed, "Please follow me."
They wound their way to an enclosed booth at the back of the restaurant. Ignoring the customers glaring suspiciously at them, the Rakshashis slid into the semicircular seat, opposite "Lightning Bolt" Zolt, who wore a kind of magenta 2-piece suit with gold clasps running up the center.
As with many mobsters, he wore a matching duster, with golden shoulder pads stylized to resemble sunbeams. Above his broad chin, his lips were pursed, his steeply angled gelled eyebrows and amber eyes giving him an appearance of an eagle hawk surveying its prey. Euryale noticed that he had no food, instead clasping his hands over the table, and she did the same.
Sliding in beside her, her dad broke the ice. "Your hair is looking better today, Mr. Zolt."
"Save it, I know it's lost almost all its color." It was true, most of his hair was waves of gray and white, with only a few stubborn holdouts of black in his ragged sideburns.
"But beyond that, it's a very nice pompadour," Phorcys pressed, "Full and with a nice, energetic bounce to it."
"Skip straight to the point," Zolt growled. "I'm a very busy man. As you should be too, right?"
"I was actually hoping to get something to eat?" Euryale asked hopefully, in concert with her grumbling stomach.
Phorcys smiled at her. "Now, Euryale, we don't want to hold Mr. Zolt up. We can stop for something quick on the way home." Clearing his throat, he turned back to Zolt. Smile gone, he joined the other 2 in folding his hands over the table. "Now, then. The point is, we have reason to believe that someone tried to rob or otherwise attack you. We apprehended an Agni Kai member earlier today who claims to have robbed a store, but no stores in the area have reported any thefts. And we know you've been harassed by these hoodlums in the past."
"Nothin' I can't handle," Zolt answered, waving away his concern.
"Be that as it may, if you have information pertaining to the investigation, I'm afraid I must insist that you tell us."
Zolt smirked. "Well, if it's like that...you ever hear o' the Other Fire Lord?"
"I don't know," Phorcys said, turning to his daughter, "Have we?"
"The 'Other Fire Lord' is a euphemism that refers to the Agni Kai crime boss," Euryale began to recite mechanically, "While the Agni Kais have not had a formalized structure for many years, they used to have a hierarchical arrangement much akin to the other Bending Triads, including the Red Monsoons and the Trip—the Terra Triad." Catching Zolt's eye, she swallowed, and continued, "The crime boss that they reported to was referred to within the gang as 'the Fire Lord,' a distinct flouting of the Fire Nation's Imperial Government. So, to outsiders, he became known as 'the Other Fire Lord.'."
"Looks like they programmed you well," Zolt quipped. Euryale just stared at him unblinkingly. Sighing, he added, 'But history has a funny way o' repeatin' itself, dontcha think?"
"What do you mean?" Euryale asked.
"I'n't it obvious?" Zolt sneered. "Someone wants to bring back the good ol' days. To become the 1st Agni Kai Fire Lord in nearly 30 years. And before y'ask, no, I don't know who."
"Then perhaps you could help us by telling us how you found out this much?" Phorcys asked. Euryale's stomach growled again.
"This lovely couple lives on Sunstone Boulevard. That's in Little Fire Nation, if y'don't know. They were nice enough to tell my friend Shin. Or Standup Shin, as we like to call 'im." He paused to snicker. "Fittingly, they go by the names Naoko and Hansuke. Now, will that be all?"
"I do believe so, Mr. Zolt," the eldest officer answered, rising to his feet and extending a hand, "Thank you for your time."
After stiffly shaking hands—Zolt ignoring Euryale entirely—they parted company.
"That pigheaded, arrogant, disgusting little slimeball!" Euryale exploded once they were "safely" back in the patrol car, speeding down an empty back road obscured by the dying sun.
"Thank you very much for holding this outburst in until we got to the car," Phorcys said wearily, clutching the dash for dear life, "But please try to keep your driving straight."
"'Nice enough to tell me,' who does he think he's kidding?! Can we bust him on a torture charge?"
"Probably not, I'm afraid," he answered, "The Triple Threats usually use methods that, when done right, leave no evidence. Shady Shin's a waterbender, so I'm guessing they used waterboarding."
"Do you think we're after the wrong guy? The lesser of the 2 evils, I mean?"
"We won't know until we find this 'Other Fire Lord.' We just have to focus on the criminals we can catch, for now. Zolt will get what he deserves some day."
"Not soon enough, if you ask me," she grumbled. As an afterthought, she added, "So, are we questioning that Agni Kai couple now?"
"I thought you were starving?" Phorcys asked, chuckling.
"After we eat, I mean."
"Heh, you're really something, kid. But no. It's getting late, I'll phone a report to HQ when we get home, and if no one else has looked into it, we'll pursue the lead 1st chance we get tomorrow morning. Sound good?"
Euryale nodded. Phorcys lurched as she swerved away from a mailbox, tires screeching in protest.
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