Two hours more passed and Cynthia was standing in the break room with Kai and Nic by her side. She was still shivering as she drank some hot water. Even in such times, she still remembered not to touch coffee. It was bad for her skin.
“You better now?” Kai asked as Nic was leading her to the table in the center.
Cynthia nodded, settling down between the two.
“The lab will look at it and tell us if they find anything,” Kai continued—though they were all there when the lab technician talked to them earlier.
“I should’ve waited for you guys,” Cynthia said, placing her cup of water down on the table.
Kai shook his head. “We should’ve been there for you.”
“I should be able to handle it though.”
“It’s okay. Don’t be so hard on yourself, kiddo.”
Kai always resorted to superiority when Cynthia was being hard on herself—like always. Between the three of them, though Nic was the oldest, Kai was the most experienced. He knew when to say the right words and when not to say anything at all. This was one of those times to talk. Cynthia was different from them because of her family background hence always being hard on herself, working at double speed, wanting to prove herself. It wasn’t like she would back down because of some obstacle. Yet Kai did not want some setbacks to discourage her either.
“This is personal,” Nic noted when some silence had passed between them. “It has to be.”
Kai nodded. “The killer wants us to know it won’t be a wax head the next time.”
Nic agreed. “Definitely.”
“Who could have something against all six of the victims though?” Cynthia pondered aloud. She was still frightened by what she found earlier but was regaining herself slowly.
“I guess that narrows things down a bit?” Kai joked, flashing them a smile.
“Or it could complicate things even more.”
“But it gives us a different angle now,” Nic pointed out.
Both Kai and Cynthia nodded. Kai pulled out his small notepad at that time and found a clean sheet to brainstorm. He wrote down some items before turning to the other two again.
“That person is either local or wants to risk it by delivering that box to us,” Kai began.
“Or he or she could’ve paid someone to drop it off,” Nic reminded Kai.
Kai shook his head. “No one would dare to approach a police building and play such a trick on us. Even if that person doesn’t know what’s inside or what it’s about. You just don’t mess with the authorities.”
Before they could say anything more, there was some type of commotion going on outside. They got up and entered the main gathering area again.
“Cynthia!” An old woman called out, approaching the three.
“Mom,” Cynthia returned the greeting, her face attempting to erase all traces of fear as her mother came closer.
“Why are you here?”
The other colleagues continued with their work as Kai and Nic exchanged a look. They knew all too well of this reaction. Each time something important came up—like some disturbance at the station, Cynthia’s mother would appear and demand an explanation. No wonder Cynthia was trying so hard to prove herself.
“Auntie,” Kai and Nic mumbled as Cynthia ushered her mother into the break room and away from the public view.
“It’s getting too dangerous here,” Mrs. Wang continued with her chastising. “You have to quit now.”
“Mom…” Cynthia attempted again.
It was routine to them as Kai and Nic pretended to tend to the coffee machine while listening in.
“Robert called you again, didn’t he?” Cynthia interrogated, her face showing apparent annoyance.
Robert was Cynthia’s cousin. Sort of, kind of. Cynthia’s aunt married Robert’s uncle. Robert just came with the package. And Robert was always annoying her by constantly pestering her with his courtship—even at work. It was only after Kai threatened to tell the boss that Robert back off—temporarily. No one said anything about off work, right? Robert even made sure to earn as many points as he could with Cynthia’s mother since. Hoping that one day, Cynthia would see his good side—or at least through her mother’s persuasion, knowing Cynthia was a filial child. Robert being a cop at the same station Cynthia applied for was not a coincidence either since he had transferred there after learning of Cynthia’s plan.
“That’s confidential information,” Kai interfered, stepping toward the pair of mother and daughter at the table. He was stirring his coffee at the moment, playing the cool dude persona—like always. “We’re on lockdown after what happened, so if it was Robert who leaked the information, he could face serious punishments.” He winked at Cynthia as Mrs. Wang looked down at the table’s surface, sending her a message that he just handed her a lifesaver.
“Like getting kick off the force?” Cynthia picked up where Kai left off.
Kai nodded, his manner serious again as Mrs. Wang directed her attention to him. But that did not mean he would behave himself completely. He wasn’t trying to score points with Mrs. Wang. He wasn’t Robert. He took a sip of his coffee before continuing. “Not to mention how he could bring Auntie inside is a miracle already. Did he say she’s a witness? Or someone who could help us with the current situation? Lying is…” He turned to Nic. “Give me two more cubes of sugar.” Then he turned his attention back on Cynthia again. “It’s going to be bad.”
“If you tell,” Mrs. Wang reminded them all.
Kai shook his head. “I’m sorry, Auntie, but this is a serious matter.”
“And you just admitted to Robert’s actions,” Cynthia confronted her mother.
Yes, Mrs. Wang was so into shielding Robert from the trouble that she’d carelessly forgotten that was the same thing as admitting Robert’s guilt.
“We have enough to worry about already, would we want to trouble the boss with one more thing?” Nic asked, walking over to them, handing Kai the sugar cubes that he’d dished out on a small plate. He was settling down between Kai and Mrs. Wang, stirring his coffee just like Kai. “We know Auntie.”
“And the two guys she brought with her,” Kai pointed out, turning serious again. In fact, on the edge of fierceness. He looked at Nic like he just saw Nic for the first time in his life. “It doesn’t matter who it is, we can’t waste time scoring points with others right now and letting suspicion clear itself away.”
Nic knew exactly what Kai was talking about. At least the second part of it. He remained silent, his head down, still stirring his coffee. It was like he found the cream and sugar cubes floating on top were more interesting than their current situation.
“What two guys?” Cynthia asked, interrupting their disagreement. She turned to her mother. “Who did you bring with you?”
“Oh, just two young men who wanted to report on…”
“There are really two men with you?” Kai asked, shocked, getting up from his place.
Kai did not stay to hear her elaborate. He leaped out of the room and made his way down the hall.
“Where are you going?” Cynthia yelled after him—and Nic.
Nic had gotten up around the same time Kai passed through the door. He was following Kai at that rapid pace.
“The control room!” Nic yelled back before increasing his steps even more.
“Mom, wait here, don’t go anywhere, please,” Cynthia commanded as she returned to her mother briefly.
“But…” Mrs. Wang managed.
Cynthia was already gone.
When Cynthia arrived at the control room, they were already looking at the CCTV segment about half an hour back. Kai and Nic were huddled at the right corner of the room, giving directions to one of the officers on duty.
“How did you know she brought two guys with her though?” Cynthia asked as she stepped into their little semi-circle.
Only the officer on duty was sitting to have better control of the computers.
“I didn’t know,” Kai replied. “I was just making it off like with your mom’s status, she would bring bodyguards with her. Why not two, right? But I didn’t realize she brought someone else in.”
“Here we are,” The officer on duty announced, slowing the clip down so they could hear and see what was going on. It was minutes before Mrs. Wang entered.
“There’s Robert greeting her,” Kai pointed at the screen. “He’s so fired. Letting someone enter after full lockdown. Three even.”
“11:36,” Nic said as the two men who followed Mrs. Wang were revealed. “Can you zoom in and capture their faces?”
“Make one capture with their full-body too,” Kai chimed in. “I want to make sure we get all the details.”
Soon, they witnessed Mrs. Wang being led by Robert into what was probably their section of the building while the other two men were escorted elsewhere. Possibly toward the reporting center.
“11:45,” Nic called out once more. “Can you find them elsewhere?”
While the men were monitoring the screen, Cynthia was studying the pictures in her hands. “We could be looking at two suspects here.”
“Do you even need to say that?” Kai sniped.
“They’re not at reporting,” Nic jumped in. “At least they didn’t stay long.”
“Where does that lead to?” Cynthia asked, her attention back on the screen with them.
“There’s a staircase there,” Kai answered.
“The old storage room is there too,” Nic followed.
Kai’s face went white, just slightly. “No camera.” He exchanged a look with Nic. “I’m going there to check. You two stay here.” He tapped on his cell phone briefly. “Keep in touch.”
Kai did not need to rattle off more instructions. He made his way down to the left-wing. They could see him on the screen of the current monitor. Nic called Kai up when he was out of the camera’s range.
“Anything?” Nic asked, though it was just an excuse to check on Kai.
“Not yet,” Kai responded. “I’m making my way toward the storage room now.” A brief pause followed. “The door’s been tampered with.”
“This can’t be good,” Cynthia said, stating the obvious.
“I’ll call for backup,” The officer on duty notified them.
They couldn’t object because it was more serious than just some minor foul play.
Fifteen minutes later, they were all standing in front of the old storage room with a backup team. That also meant other arrangements had been made around the building. Mrs. Wang had been taken to the interrogation room along with Robert. The only difference was Robert was personally interrogated by their boss.
“You guys are kidding, right?” Kai asked, looking from one to the other. He didn’t realize they had sent such a team and was actually lining up in front of him. “If there’s a bomb or something, you would want to stay away, not go toward it.”
“Leave it to us then,” One of the officers of that special team answered.
“Kai…” Nic called out, knowing Kai did not want to miss the action. “It might be quicker this way. The rest of us could go check out the staircase to see if anything’s there.”
Kai’s eyes moved back and forth, reconsidering the situation. Without a word, he followed Nic and Cynthia to the staircase. Some of the backup team went with them. They had some people from the lab with them as well—in case they needed to collect any evidence. It was already an unsaid thing that they were wearing gloves as Kai opened the door. That was also after the lab technician swabbed the knob for prints. They knew the intruders had to be careful and wouldn’t make such careless mistakes after having gone so far. Yet it never hurt to collect samples.
They descended the steps in groups of three with their weapons at a ready. Kai was the one holding the flashlight among the three of them. He edged forward carefully, not missing an inch of detail within the cramped space. A stench reached their noses as they stopped in front of a metallic door. It was the one leading to the other side of the basement. Another unused space just like the old storage room.
“On three?” Kai prompted.
The lab technician stepped forward and collected more samples before letting Kai proceed.
“Don’t tell me it’s a corpse in there,” One of the officers of the special team said as soon as Kai kicked the door.
That officer—and the rest of them—did not have any time to quip about the matter since the stench had overtook them all. They covered their mouths with one hand and the other still pointing their weapons elsewhere to inspect the place. Kai was the only persistent one and still seemed to be unaffected by it. He continued to circle the space and use his flashlight to inspect the place.
And for the record, Kai did not need to kick the door since it was already unlocked by one of the officers but he just felt like kicking it. It looked cooler that way. Ever heard of any officer just entering a room and calling out ‘Clear’? No, he or she would kick the door first before scanning the room in a dramatic manner and then calling the clear code. In this case, it wasn’t clear. It was far from clear, especially the air quality.
“Who died in here anyway?” Another frustrated officer shouted after having enough. He was one of the officers holding a flashlight so he had to get crafty with shielding himself from the stench.
“You don’t have to hold your breath,” Kai told Cynthia when he realized her face was turning red from lack of oxygen. He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a thin green stripe. He unpeeled the protective tape and placed the strip at the spot just under her nose and above her upper lip. Satisfied with the result, he smiled and retrieved his flashlight from his jacket pocket. “There. Better?”
Cynthia nodded, reaching her own hand up to feel the jelly-like substance. It was then that she realized he had one on him all along. That was why he didn’t even flinch since he entered. “When did you put it on?”
“Before I kicked the door.”
Seeing Nic eyeing them suspiciously from a distance, Kai smiled and offered another stripe to Nic. “You ran out?”
Nic walked over to them and took the stripe from Kai’s hand. “I didn’t even know we needed one.”
“You can never be prepared enough. Even at your own house.”
“What’s in it though?” Cynthia asked, her curiosity rose another notch after realizing that even Nic knew about it.
“Some ingredients to take away intoxicating smells and also has antibacterial abilities.” He looked around at the different teams scattered around the room. “I think we should only have four people in here.”
He had raised his voice so everyone present could hear him. Though the room had a comfortable amount of space to move around, yet it was easy to miss details because most of them were trying really hard to seal themselves from the odor.
“Good idea,” One of the other officers managed, scrambling out of there as soon as possible.
“We’ll stay,” Kai continued. “And I think we need a lab tech with us.”
So the rest cleared out—gladly—while Kai handed the lab tech a special stripe as well. The ones who were outside weren’t free either since two were still stationed by the door as lookouts while the rest scattered around various spots to check for suspicious items.
“I’ll take the back corner,” Kai volunteered as soon as they had more space to move around.
“Left,” Nic called out.
“I’ll take right then,” Cynthia said—though everyone knew that was the only option.
The lab technician took things at her own pace while the others searched more rapidly.
Another fifteen minutes passed before an officer who was inspecting the old storage room upstairs rushed to their place. Kai, Cynthia, and Nic met him by the edge of the staircase.
“What happened?” Kai asked, seeing the officer out of breath.
“It’s a diversion!” The officer blurted out.
It was then that Kai remembered they were underground so there were no signals. It made sense that the newly arrived officer had to literally run down there to send information to them.
“What?” Nic asked, sending Kai a look before tuning in to the officer’s next words.
“Those two messed with us on purpose so he could go on a killing spree. We got another body. Actually, two.”
Kai, Cynthia, and Nic exchanged a look among themselves.
“You three go,” They heard one of the officers from the special team spoke up. “We’ll finish here and report back later.”
“Thanks,” Kai said, turning to the officer briefly before following the newly arrived officer upstairs.
“Who’s at the scene right now?” Nic asked as they ascended the steps.
“Is it still raining?” Cynthia asked.
“So the killer switched from nighttime to daytime.”
“The time won’t make a difference now,” Kai pointed out. “What matters is the killer is out of control now, desperate even.”
“If we don’t focus on the time, how will we catch them?”
By this time, they’d reached the first level and were all headed toward the main area of the building.
“My car,” Kai rattled off as they reached the entrance, knowing the other three were still following him.
Nic and Cynthia increased their pace to keep up with Kai. They were in for good because of the rainy weather condition. The road was already flooded with water. Yet they did not dare to question Kai’s driving. Kai rarely drove, only letting Nic do it if they had to travel by car. But now?
© Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
Posted: Monday, January 16, 2011