Detective Case 4: Flaming Angels
Local Police Station
A day later
"Can you identify the two men in the separate you?" DI Nikki Heath asked Michelle and Lin Ling.
"Uh…well it was really dark..." Michelle began, staring through the two-way mirror. Walter Munro and his son sat apart with their lawyers’ present.
"Maybe if you could let us hear their voices - I remember a voice when I was captured," Lin replied.
DI Heath thought for a minute then open the audio for the last interrogation she had with the arrested duo; she couldn't let the girls listen to the men due to legal reasons.
"That's it! The son was the one who captured me," Lin pointed and Michelle agreed.
"That's good enough," Nikki said, noting it down on a tablet. "The lawyers can bark all they want but that should lock them away."
"That simple?" Chelle asked.
"Well, there may be bumps down the road but yes," Nikki replied. "Thanks a lot girls. Have a great weekend."
"So how was it?" Jenn Thompson asked her two new pals.
"Like way better than you see on a telly," Chelle remarked.
"Well it sounds like an adventure, except the parts where get captured, bound and..."
"Afraid of that? Don't want to join us as a teen detective?" Lin poked her.
"Oh no, I'm still game. I love your gadgets like that earring radio."
"But you don't have earrings. Wait, we can fix that now."
Nearly an hour later, the girls emerged from a beauty shop with Jenn clutching her new punctured earlobes and studded earrings. "Quit holding them," Lin told her. "The more you hold them the more you think it'll hurt."
"Ow," Jenn still whined. "So how do I get the radio thingy?"
"I have to clip it on. That reminds me, I still have pack my science-y stuff. Want to give me a hand?"
"You really are a scientist," Jenn remarked much later as the trio packed away the bits and pieces into boxes and bags in Lin's house. Lin had already clipped on the radio device on her new earrings. "How did you manage to acquire all this?"
"Let's just say I use my pocket money well," Lin replied. "Be careful with that!" She exclaimed at Chelle. "That's my rangefinder disguised in a watch."
"Why would detectives need a rangefinder?" Jenn asked.
"You never know," Lin replied, carefully packing another device. "Damn, these bags and boxes may not be enough."
"We need a space for this and our work, you know, like a headquarters," Michelle mused.
"You mean like the Three Investigators, working out of a junkyard?" Jenn added. "I don't want to be based out of some dingy old shack."
"First we have to find a place..." Michelle's phone suddenly beeped. "Oh, great, my dad's returned home. Sorry, got to go."
A while later
"Daddy!" Catherine Summers cried, hugging her father over and over again. In response, the greying Arthur Summers tickling his youngest daughter; he knew she loved that.
"Alright, Kate, want to see what I got you?" Arthur smiled, reaching into one of his bags. "You love dolls, but this isn't just any doll." Kate unscrewed the wooden figure, revealing another similar figure inside then was told to remove that smaller figure, revealing yet another figure.
"It's a Matryoshka doll," her father slowly pronounced the word as she replaced the parts back. "And's that's what makes it special." Kate thanked her father and raced to her room to arrange her new toy on her shelf.
"Dad!" Chelle hugged her father. Her gift was a batik dress with intricate design. "I hope it fits, honey."
"I'm sure it does. Where in Malaysia or Indonesia, Dad?"
"I..." Art Summers frowned.
"Let you father shower; he had a long day," Maggie Summers suddenly appeared and guided her husband away. "Get the table ready children; I've made dinner."
Why on earth won't dad tell me where he's off to? Chelle wondered. And what 'work' does he does he really do?
The next week
"Dad bought me this," Chelle showed Lin a picture of the dress as they walked through the school gates.
"Cool! I have a batik dress as well. Did he travel to Malaysia?" Lin asked.
"That he's been coy about. In fact, he's never told me or Kate what exactly he does, some government work or something."
"He could be a ..."
"Hey you two, watch out!" Lin's sentence was cut off with Heather's cry. Both girls jumped, just in time a pail of dirty sewage splashed near them. Students managed to move away but classmate Hatty Coy's tights were slight soaked. She ran to her locker to get a change while the slight laughter from the side hallway revealed who rigged the bucket.
"Lin, Lin, don't!" Chelle held back her friend who was ready to charge at the Jon-Beatles gang members. "We'll save it for another time."
"It's fighting fire with fire. I'll try to sort it out."
Lin nodded but confronted Art Morton in class. "I know nothing about any a sewage pail," he snorted at her.
"Your eyes say different. Now get your idiotic gang to stop this bullying," Lin raised her voice and readied herself to physically fight him if necessary.
"Aw, I love it when you're angry," Art taunted her. "Why don't..."
"Morning class," their teacher Mr Lambeth greeted. Both glared at each other, but silently thankful for the interruption. The week went by with Chelle informing the discipline teachers about the bullying, yet hardly anything was done.
"Phew, lucky it's the short-term break," Lin remarked to Jenn as both girls were clearing up their lockers.
"Yup, can’t wait to get out of my uniform," Jenn remarked.
"Hate the blouse?"
"The whole darn thing. Especially the skirt," Jenn pointed. "I'm jeans kind of girl not skirts that give boys a free peep show. I...Are we going to find a meeting place for our detective group?"
The two students met up with Chelle and they scouted the town for an appropriate venue. They finally narrowed their choices to an old farmhouse along the train tracks or a parked mobile home whose owner was willing to rent it out.
"Still tough choices," Chelle remarked as they stopped for some food and drink. "The farmhouse stinks to high heaven and we'll be spending more time cleaning it than meeting."
"Well the caravan owner is charging like £100 pounds per day just to be there," Lin complained. "Hey don’t me; just because I have wealthy family doesn't mean I can immediately fund rental."
Just then, a fat man in a suit and tie approached the trio. "Michelle Summers, Lin Chan, Jennifer Thompson?" Lin corrected her name. "Alexander Peters, Regulation team, Croonford town council." The girl's stared at his ID card before letting him continue. "We thank you for uncovering the corruption in the latest QuizzWhizz competition. After some debate, the town council decided to award three of you £100 each."
The girls were super elated. "That's still not enough for a long-term stay at that caravan, but it's a start," Jenn mused. After banking her cheque, Chelle returned home to hear her mother discussing about a short family holiday. "We're going to Marksville," her mother declared. "There's a great furniture sale there and a resort perfect for rest and recreation. Plus, there's a street festival there."
"Ooh, love a festival," Kate clapped her hands.
"Thanks honey," Arthur Summers kissed his wife. Just then, his mobile buzzed. After checking it, he regrettably said, "sorry, can't make it after all. Work calls."
"Oh dear, and I booked the resort rooms and other tickets in your name," his wife remarked.
In a corner, Chelle was on a chat with Lin and Jenn. "Hey girls, dad can't make it to our family holiday to Marksville. Either of you free to join us?"
"I've drama club practise, sorry," typed Jenn.
"Marksville. What so special there?" Asked Lin.
Michelle repeated what her mum described and after some debate, Lin decided to join the Summers family on their trip. "Have fun you two. I'll try to handle the meeting place while you're away."
After hours on a train journey, all of them made it to Marksville. While Mrs Summers and Kate unpacked and rest, Chelle and Lin explored the town. It was much smaller than Croonford and much quieter in the evening. "Almost like a ghost town."
"Yeah. Say, here's something I made before the trip," she held out something really minute. "This is an identification device, marking each of us up to a range of one kilometre. It can be fitted to any clothing or items. What do you want yours attached to?"
Chelle looked at the device and decided on her watch. "Alright, so we can track each other on our phone - I'll show you in a minute - or a function I'm making for digital watches."
"And where do you place your locator?" When Lin revealed the location, Chelle laughed. "You really want to know?”
The next day, the Summers and Lin toured the resort, enjoying the various indoor games sports and leisure areas. Lin and Chelle, having enjoyed enough of the resort, got Mrs Summers permission again to tour the town. "It’s not only a ghost town in the evening, but a purely white town. There's not single coloured person beside well myself here."
"Well you have me," Chelle reassured her. Just then a group call came in from Jenn.
"Well, besides the resort being a resort and Lin finding the whole place void diversity, nothing much," Chelle informed the shortest member of the team.
"I'm getting somewhere with Mr Morden, the caravan owner. He'll take half of our prize money and allow us in the caravan but we have to help out with his garden and household. Or he'll take all of our money and let us in. But the stay is only for six months."
"I don't want to lose my prize money and we probably be taking up most of my time," Lin responded and Chelle agreed. The three girls discuss the options but still could not arrive at a final decision. Lin then proceeded brief Jenn on how to trace both herself and Chelle by forwarding a special app to her mobile. "Once we're back, I'll give you the same device I made."
Suddenly, music blared across the town. "Hey, the street festival is starting. We’ll discuss the meeting place when we're back," Chelle ended the call. Mrs Summers and Kate joined them and the first few floats passed by. The first few floats were the generic kind then came one with girls that looked Indian and were wearing saris.
"Hey look, Lin, there are some non-white people after all!" Chelle poked her friend.
"Uh, if you closer, they dress like Indians, but underneath they are Caucasian," her Chinese friend countered and Chelle's eyes fluttered in resignation. The MC for the whole parade suddenly announced, "And everyone's favourite float, the Flaming Angels!" The crowd roared as a multi-coloured float with a complex design and fire sprouting out of random angles appeared. On the float, nearly a dozen women danced around the sprays of fire, wearing costumes that made them look like angels. They moved in such random patterns and as the flames sprouted, each performer almost appeared to move through the fire, causing the audience to gasp and then clap.
"That's so cool!" Chelle's younger sister exclaimed. "I wish that happened during dance class." As her mother gave her a lecture on the danger, Lin edged forward, staring at the float. "Why, think that's really spectacular?" Chelle asked sarcastically.
"Look at the eyes of those performers," Lin pointed.
"What's so special? They just can move past fire."
"No, no, look again, their eyes. They're drugged or something. And they aren't moving randomly; they're moving their limbs in robotic fashion."
Chelle was doubtful of Lin's claim but squinted her eyes and saw a red blur that was common in all the eyes of the girls on the Flaming Angels float. She was about to respond when the autumn rain came and the MC for the festival announced the floats would resume once the rain stopped.
"Come on, let's return to the hotel," Mrs Summers motioned to the children.
"Um, Mrs Summers, we would like head closer to take picture of the floats," Lin lied.
"Ok, you have your raincoats. But be back here by four or when I text you two."
"Ok, it's a case," Chelle remarked, tightening her raincoat. "But surely not in that kind of clothing?" Lin was wearing a knee-length skirt, 40 denier dark blue tights while Chelle was in a generic pair of jeans.
"It's not like I'm totally immobilised. Come on." Both young sleuths headed towards where the famous float was parked. A huge tarpaulin now covered the float but it appeared to be sealed tight. The two girls scouted around and finally found an opening. "Ready?"
"You know, if we're caught, it could be embarrassing," Chelle remarked.
"Hey, it's still a mystery. Here's an extra of that penknife disguised as a as a foundation powder kit, it may turn out useful, Lin replied. "And activate that recording device I fixed to your phone cover."
Once they crawled into the 'tent', they were shocked at the sight. The performers from the float and other girls were seated cross-legged on the ground. There was a red glow common in all the girls' eyes and their mouths hardly moving.
"Hi, hello, I'm Michelle. You are?" Michelle asked the nearest girl. Lin introduced her full name to another girl waving her hands close to the girl's eyes. After several attempts, both of them concluded the performers were indeed drugged.
"So how the hell can they perform on that float with all that fire?" Chelle asked.
"Don't know. Say, they don't look British; they look Eastern European," Lin remarked. Before Chelle could continue, loud voices boomed from behind them. The girls frantically looked around and there was only a heap of boxes. However, they couldn't reach them in time before a lady with long brown hair, another taller black hair lady and a muscular tattooed guy entered.
"Well, what do we have here? Children snooping around?"
"We…we are just fans of your float and wanted to congratulate your performers," Chelle quickly blurted out an excuse.
"Yeah, yeah, I heard better lies than that lassie," the lady smirked, gesturing to her colleagues who grabbed both girls. Before they could shout, gloved hands were clamped down over their jaws. To both Chelle and Lin's shock, the lady rapidly advanced and jammed a needle into both their necks, and within seconds both young sleuths slumped down.
Strangely enough, both girls could still see what was happening and hear, although the voices appeared much muted than before. Neither of them could feel anything across their skin, talk or move their limbs one bit. "That was fast as usual. Kel, go check outside for any more of these vermin. Regina, help me get these two dressed."
Dressed?! Michelle screamed in her mind as the lady toward over her. Helpless, her raincoat, then her jumper, then her shirt and jeans were removed, exposing her white bra and beige knickers. "Aw, that one has cuter undies," the evil captor purred, pointing at Lin's bigger black bra and polka dot pink knickers.
The lady dug into one of the crates and fished out two costumes that were exactly what performers wore. Within minutes, both Michelle and Lin Ling were dressed up like the Flaming Angels, with Michelle suit appearing tight on her. "Yup, it doesn't look right. Besides, the Chinese one looks the part. Maybe I'll find my next shipment from that country." I'm half Malaysian, half Hong Kong, you witch, Lin yelled internally. "Better secure this one. I'll train Eastern bigger tits girl with the other potion and the performance will rock."
Chelle could only wail silently as Lin was carried away in a fireman's lift. The other ladies hustled the rest of the seated performers out, with Chelle still pondering how they had stunned her. That co-captor Regina returned and armed with a long tube of plastic. Still with most senses disabled, Chelle could only whine internally as cloth was wound around her jaw. Then plastic wrap was wound around her arms, pinning her arms tightly against her sides. More plastic wrap secured her legs together. "That and the drug should hold you," Regina smirked, rolling the still stunned sleuth across the ground.
Back in the hotel, Mrs Summers face turned from a from to a frantic mode as she dialled both her daughter's and Lin's mobile phone numbers but continuously received a dial tone or a 'please leave a message after tone' after several tries. Before Kate could speak up, her mother declared, "I'm going out to look for your sister and her friend. Stay here and don't go out ok?"
"But mum, the parade will be re-starting..."
"I know. But I want you to stay here ok? Watch TV, maybe it will show up on the TV." With a quick kiss on Kate's forehead, she grabbed her brolly and dashed out.
After a boring drama club, Jenn dialled her fellow sleuths’ mobiles as well, aiming to discuss the acquiring of the headquarters. After several engaged calls she also frowned as she made her way home. She then remembered the name of the hotel Michelle mentioned and after searching on her mobile, she called the front desk, pretending she was a family member.
"Hi, this is Jennifer Thompson is Michelle Summers there?" She asked, after being connected.
"Hi, this is Kate Summers. my sister isn't here." After a brief conversation, Jenn concluded the call. So Chelle and Lin weren't in their hotel room and not answering their mobiles. Jenn pondered about that as she changed to comfortable clothes back home. "Mum, Dad, I'm going out to meet some school friends. Won't be too late."
"Well, be back by dinner time," Her father called but she had already scooted to catch the train to Marksville.
The reason for the engaged calls naturally was the fact the evil lady had shut both Chelle's and Lin's phones off. Pocketing them, she donned her own costume and roughly shoved the further-drugged Lin in line with the rest of the performers. "One, step, turn. Two, step turn," she barked. With all the girls heavily drugged, they did not speak in return or retaliate. Instead, they followed their 'owner's' orders, practicing movements on the ground. She had no idea her voice was being recorded by the special device within both the sleuth’s phone covers.
Mrs Maggie Summers was frantic. Where was her daughter and her friend? She finally reached the spot where she told the children to meet up then recalled Lin's last statement. It wasn't long before she spotted the tarpaulin covering the Flaming Angels float. "Hello, have you seen two young, pre-teen girls?" She asked the tattooed man, whom she assumed was a guard. "One's about 5'2 with dark brown hair, the other's about 5'3, Chinese, black hair."
"Sorry no, and it's still raining, why would kids be around?" The 'guard', Kel answered. After more talk, Maggie Summers gave him her phone number and left, still frantic over the missing children.
"Hey," He entered the tent and call his colleague Regina. "I think the girl's mum is searching for her," he pointed at the quite mummified, and still stunned Michelle.
"Parade's re-starting soon," their boss appeared. "Secure her in one of the shipment boxes. She could still be useful." Following that order, Kel and Regina lifted the wrapped school girl, folded her into a bent foetal position and sealed her in a large box. "Do ya think she can breathe?" Regina wondered.
"The other girls came in such containers; of course, she can. Let's help move da float," her partner snorted.
What the heck am I doing here, Jenn wondered as she exited Marksville's train station. Dad's going to give me hell if I return home late, she thought. As she opened her phone to try her friend's again, she noted the special app Lin installed in her mobile. Activating it, she didn't find a strong signal from Lin's device, but Chelle's location was strong. The app didn't exactly provide directions, but the signal grew stronger after each block and Jenn heard the app beep extremely loudly.
In front of her was the tarpaulin but it was being lifted up as the float was wheeled out. Jenn snuck behind a building and checked the app. It now showed Michelle's signal was really close by and Lin's signal was stronger but moving. Peering around, Jenn pulled her dark-coloured coat cover her head and half-walked, half-crawled towards the direction of Chelle's signal--she had turned off the sound on her mobile. Inside the tent were just boxes but Jenn also noticed the girl's jeans, shirt, jumper and raincoat scattered at a side.
What the?! She thought and looking at her phone, the signal was coming from one of the boxes in the middle. With all her strength, she managed to lift the top box and then pry open the box. "Oh my gosh, Chelle?!" She cried, finding her fellow sleuth wrapped up in the plastic and gagged. "Hold on," she lowered her voice, lest someone her and slowly lifted her friend out.
"Chelle? Michelle? It's me, Jenn, Jennifer," Jenn whispered then shook Michelle violently. "Chelle?"
Michelle's eyes suddenly fluttered, blinked then nodded. "Chelle, hold on," Jenn called, working at the tight knots of the cloth gag. After several sweaty minutes, the cloth gave way. "Michelle? Chelle, can you hear me?" But all Michelle could do was blink her eyes.
"Hold on, I'll get the plastic off," Jenn called. Michelle's eyes fluttered then her head nodded violently. "Are you in shock…what?" Jenn suddenly turned and followed her friend's eyes back towards her discarded clothes. Picking up the jeans, the penknife-foundation kit immediately fell out. Jenn opened it and used the blade to cut away the coils of plastic wrap.
"Michelle, Chelle..." Jenn shook her friend's body once again.
"Ah...Yow...Jenn?" Michelle shouted her words then shrieked as her crotch turned damp.
"Yes, it's me," Jenn cried, elated. "Are you able to move?" Michelle nodded then blurted out rapidly. "Lin, Lin Ling! She's in trouble!"
"Yeah, Shh, don't worry, I've got the app, I can trace her." Gathering Chelle's clothes, Jenn helped Chelle out. The rain had stopped and the sound of the street carnival had returned. With one arm supporting the still-partly drugged Chelle, Jenn followed the direction of Lin's signal on her phone. As suspected, Lin was on the Flaming Angels float, and with the other performers, was moving in the choreograph sequences formed by the evil lady.
"Introducing the latest Angel, Esther Wong!" The MC called.
"Hey, no! That's my friend Lin Ling!" Jenn cried as she and the still costumed-dressed Chelle moved towards the front.
"Children, don't stop the festival please," a policewoman approached them with both arms stretched out. "And," she looked at Michelle. "Aren't you one of the performers on that float?"
"Constable, she's not a performer. She was held against her will in a box. And it's my friend also held against her will on that float!" Jenn protested.
"Yeah, yeah, I've heard better stories. Move back please, you're disturbing the festival and endangering yourself," the police officer said, disbelieving.
"Officer..." Jenn cried.
"Hey you, how you get out?" Jenn turned to see a brown-haired lady with a mask over her eyes and dark-haired lady. "Get them!" But Jenn moved faster, helping Chelle through the crowds. Both girls were still in the front of the crowds that had returned to see the floats. As they were running, Jenn noticed the float passing by with Lin moving past the sprouting flames.
"Lin! Lin Ling!" She shrieked but all Lin did was moved in the quickly-taught dance sequence. Her eyes glowed, indicating she was heavily-drugged.
"Gotcha!" Jenn heard and she was immediately grabbed from behind. "Naughty girl, escaping eh?" The masked lady cried. Jenn kicked wildly at the hands holding her when suddenly she remembered how she freed Chelle. "Yikes!" Regina yelled as the blade of the penknife was slashed against her arm.
"What's going on here?" The same policewoman ran up.
"Officer, this child is attacking my friend and me with a penknife," the masked lady cried.
"No..." Michelle blurted. "No...my friend..." Jenn saw that both of them had lost it. As she stood straighter up, her arm bumped into a glass. It was the panel of a fire hose. Smashing it, Jenn yanked the hose out and without thinking, sprayed the passing float. The flames stopped spurting but more surprisingly, the performers, now soaked, suddenly rushed down from the float and started yelling in a European language. Lin also rushed down straight into her two friends.
"We've been hunting for this lady for a while, Anna Radrik. As you discovered, she's been smuggling Eastern European ladies into the UK with the promise of jobs and working visa. We did highly suspect her using the girls as part of a troupe but never thought she would drug them with mind-controlling drugs. Thanks to your recording, we have strong evidence for a case again Anna and her colleagues," the senior detective noted to the girls. Michelle and Lin Ling were in the local hospital. Both were still under inspection to clear them of any remains of the drugs.
"Wow," was Lin's comment. "Without Jenn's help, I would be in a robotic trace, dancing through flames."
"As they say, that's what friend are for." Suddenly her phone buzzed rapidly. "Uh, Detective, can we clear this up later?"
"Daddy, please, nothing dangerous happen," Jenn pleaded to her stern father.
"I don't care, you broke the rules, to your room young lady!"
Michelle, Lin Ling and Jennifer will return in To Madam with Love.