When Jealousy Rears Her Lovely Head
The Adventures of Wu Hsing Jade
© 2014 by Richard Messer
Together they passed down the steps and up to the corner where they crossed the street and headed in a northerly direction.
After about a half block the detective spoke, “Did you manage to get ahold of Sari Aha and Missy Pohovic?”
The rat femme nodded. “I managed to get a message passed onto Mrs. Zong on Main Island after returning yesterday. It seems the two are regular customers at her tea shop. They contacted me after dinner and I passed on the information of Cong Zhoma and what we had on her father. They assured me that this would be passed onto the other priestesses who will apprise some of the locals to keep an eye out for them.”
It was a brisk walk in covering the 3 blocks from the apothecary to the emporium. The streets weren’t crowded as the majority of tourists were gone with Speed Week long past. There were still some off-islanders trying to get in last minute shopping and enjoying the scenery without elbow-to-elbow crowding.
On the west side of the street the pair saw the sign indicating their arrival. It was a subdued storefront they noticed with some of its wares on display outside. The boxer started to step through the door first when his ears pricked at what sounded like an argument. One voice was raised in heated tones and clipped words. The other sounded to be calm in answering the first; however, this speaker seemed to be hard pressed in keeping a hidden rage in check.
Holding out a restraining hand Hargreave spared the rat femme a knowing glance that meant she was to stay outside. Sue’s tail was held high in question but she obliged. The detective checked to be sure his pistol was loose in its shoulder holster before entering the shop. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, the boxer entered the store.
The establishment was a vast repository of knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, and everything a treasure hunter would want to pour over. But everything was neat and orderly on the tables, in bins, or hanging from the ceiling. But the detective ignored all this as his attention was on the verbal battle being waged. As he rounded a coat rack filled with native dress Hargreave beheld the confrontation.
An oriental feline in a western suit was face to face with a light brown bear in Spontoon Island native kilt. The bear was of medium height and stocky built, enough to handle the gray and white cat who spoke English with a thick accent.
The canine pulled up. Gray and white? Hargeave studied the cat quickly and everything fell into place. This was that Cong girl’s father, the Siamese demon priest. A hat obscured the countenance but the detective recognized the point chin that went with the triangular face and the long ears.
“Cong,” Hargreave said before realizing he had spoken. The other two stopped talking and turned to the newcomer. The boxer stepped forward and pulled out his badge.
“Detective Sergeant Graeme Hargreave, Meeting Island constabulary. Your daughter is implicated in the murder of a Spontoon Island native four days ago. Do you have any idea where she might be presently?”
The feline’s thin lips pulled back in a toothy grimace though his tail still whipped aggressively.
“I have no idea where that little bitch would be as I just arrived to these islands yesterday. An item of great value was stolen from me and sent here, and I will get it back!”
The hair on the canine’s nape rose as he faced this furson. Not sure why but Hargreave knew he was staring Death in the face. The Siamese may have something other than the necklace to call down death on whoever stood in his way. But the boxer had to play his hand.
“We know it’s a gold necklace of a lamia that was housed in a carved wooden box that bore a bronze plate. And that was a nasty trap you set in it, too. But all we have is just the box; your daughter has the necklace. And we need to find both before someone else is killed. Now you either help us in finding her, and getting that necklace back, or stay out of the way.” Then he leaned towards the demon priest and pointed a finger at his black nose pad. “But if you try to stop us in this investigation, then I’ll bring down the full weight of the law on your head.”
Cong gave an evil grin. “And you think you can stop me, peasant?”
“We’ll do more than stop you! We’ll exorcise you and burn the body!”
Three pairs of eyes turned to see the young rat woman standing at the end of the aisle, an open fan held in each hand and slender tail wrapped around her waist!
Cong’s yellow eyes narrowed to slits at recognizing a fellow Asian. <And you think you can stop me, little one?>
The young demon hunter did not answer; she slowly turned her body until the left side faced the cat, the left hand fan held out and low while Sue brought the right fan up above her head.
<I’ve stopped an ogre and helped in defeating a Japanese magician. Yes, I believe I can stop you.>
The tableau held itself in place for the space of five heartbeats when a door opened off to the side.
“Kalo, what’s all the fuss about?”
A young tiger femme with honey brown hair stepped into view. She sported a light brown suit dress and low heel shoes. In her hand were some papers. She halted when she saw the four fursons staring back at her.
Detective Hargreave saw the opening and took it. His right hand dove inside his jacket for the pistol there in the shoulder holster. But as he drew it out Cong caught the motion out of the corner of his eye. Like a cobra he spun to his left and brought his left hand up in a sweeping motion. The knife edge of his hand both knocked the gun away then caught the wrist in an iron grip. With a twist that brought a grunt of pain to the boxer’s lips the Siamese followed up with a straight punch from his right hand to the canine’s black muzzle that sent him sprawling.
It was a small opening but enough for Ming Xue. With a muttered word and a sharp snap of the wrist the rat femme sent the left fan spinning towards Cong. The hum of the whirling fan made the demon priest duck, but not before the metal tips sawed off the tip of his right ear.
With a scream and a curse in lurid Cantonese the cat clutched at his ear before storming out the front door. A panting rodent femme stepped over to the detective and helped him to his feet, leaving him to recover his revolver. Then she went to the bear on the floor and helped him up as well. Finally she stepped up to a confused tiger femme and with a bow introduced herself and the detective, following with a request for a private conference.
* * * * * * *
Jeneeni Datchurio sat behind her desk and listened in silence as the boxer detective told the story of the murder on Kami Island a few nights ago. Then the tiger femme turned her attention to the young rat femme in the dark gray dress and twin buns. In turn Ming Xue explained her background and involvement with the investigation. When she had finished Sue folded her hands in her lap and waited on their host to answer.
About then Kalo Kolo entered the office with a tray bearing four cups and a teapot. When everyone was served the bear took a seat at the end of the desk.
“A most interesting tale that I have heard in quite some time,” she said in a husky voice before taking a sip.
“But I assure you, Miss Datchurio, that we are speaking the truth,” replied Ming Xue after setting her own cup down. “Detective Hargreave had found the receipt to this ‘package’ that had been sent to your emporium and was, in turn, passed to Miss Cong Zhoma.”
“But what still is a mystery in this case is why this necklace was sent here,” said the canine officer. A quick glance at the desk showed no ashtray, nor was there a hint of tobacco smoke in the air.
The tigress sipped her cup, thought for a moment, and then asked, “Do you have the receipt on you?”
“No, it’s police evidence at the constabulary,” he said while setting aside his tea before reaching into his jacket, “but I had copied the information off of it just in case it became relevant.” Hargreave pulled out his small notebook and thumb through the pages till he reached the page needed.
“It was sent from Bangkok, Siam about three weeks ago according to the shipping date on the receipt. It also gave a name of who sent it and who was to have received it.”
“Do you have the shipping number as well?” Kalo asked.
With a glance at his notes the detective gave them to the bear. Turning to the tigress Kalo excused himself to consult the records. Janeeni nodded her assent then turned back to her guests.
“Now, will you be so kind as to tell me, in full, what had occurred in my store is relevant to this . . . murder?”
So between boxer and Asian rodent femme they laid out the story once more from the discovery of Teng Ningfu’s death to the incident at the constabulary yesterday. When they had finished Kalo Kolo had returned with an account book. The store owner moved her cup out of the way for her right hand bear to set the book down on the desk. At a slip of paper marking the entry of a shipment, he opened to that point and indicated the information in a neat script. Jeneeni Datchurio leaned in to read it. As she did so her brow furrowed slightly before she spared Kalo a glance.
“That is all there is in its description: ‘A long carved wooden box with a bronze plate’?”
The bear gave a nervous grin as he scratched at his shoulder length black hair.
“That’s all, Jean,” he said with a shrug. “When it came in we couldn’t figure out how to open it. Teko tried using a knife to pry the lid off without marring the wood but nothing worked.”
The tigress nodded, but her attention was drawn to the canine detective who had given a polite cough into his fist.
“If you would be so kind as to give me the names of who had sent the package and who was to pick it up?”
Nodding again Jeneeni looked over the entry before reading off the names.
“It was sent by one Wu Hsing Tang from Bangkok and was to be delivered to one Xin Xue over on South Island.”
Hargreave consulted his notes and nodded. “Those were the names on the receipt . . .”
The sound of breaking crockery drew everybody’s attention to Ming Xue. The rodent femme was sitting still, her eyes wide, the tea cup shattered between her feet, tail hanging limp on the floor.
“Miss Ming?” Concern darkened the boxer’s face as he leaned towards the startled femme. He laid a soft hand on her shoulder and gave a gentle shake. It was enough to rouse the young rat woman. She stared at Hargreave.
“I know those people! I spent two weeks with Madame Wu Hsing three months ago; she’s Jade’s grandmother. And Xin Xue is a business woman over on South Island.”
With that the demon hunter stood and bowed to their hostess. “Thank you for the tea, Miss Datchurio, and the information. It will be helpful in our investigation.” With that she picked up her shoulder bag and walked out the office.
The other three watched, incredulous, at the departure of the rat femme. They looked at each other in turn before the canine detective rose to his feet in turn.
“I must apologize for her behavior, ma’am, as it appears she must have some knowledge of who these people are. Good day to you both.” With that he bowed his head briefly before donning his hat and followed Xin Xue.
Outside the rodent femme was applying a match to her pipe, puffing it alight. Stepping up beside her Graeme Hargreave pulled out one of his cheroots. After he blew a streamer of smoke into the air they headed back down the street towards the apothecary.
“Answer me this: If your friend’s grandmother sent that necklace here, then who is this Xin Xue that was supposed to get it?”
Taking the pipe from her lips the rat femme eyed the boxer. “We’ll discuss that with Jade and her aunt as soon as we get back to the store. Because what needs to be said is of a ‘highly sensitive nature’, as I believe the phrase goes. Until then, the less I say the better it will go for the investigation.”
So saying Ming Xue set the pipe back into her mouth and headed on down the lane, her tail swishing from side to side. With a deep sigh the boxer could only follow.