I'm thinking these updates will come about once a week after this one, roughly the same time-frame Silence of the Sound had, as I finish up the last chapters. Not sure yet exactly how many there will be, though I just started on six and the story is not quite done on my end. A few more to go!
Lin gazed out the large arched window behind her desk, looking down over the bustling courtyard without really seeing it. She hadn't slept well the night before, waking when Tenzin left and not able to fully fall back to sleep. Her mind was completely divided on what to do, whether to leave the city to search for her mother in order to ply her witness's tongue – assuming she would help at all, herself – or stay here and work the case without him.
Every foul instance the Dragon Clan had been involved in – murders, explosions, extortions, intimidations, everything the other gangs had dabbled in over the years intensified – had left no evidence strong enough to tie back to them. Truth be told, she didn't even know who their leader was, who any of the members were, or how many branches there were spread through her city slowly infesting its streets like a disease.
They always left a tiny curled dragon, its tail feeding into its fanged mouth, painted or carved at the scene when it was their doing and she had come to despise that sign with all her being. Upon a closer examination of the most recent crime scene, the dragon had been found carved under one of the many tables in the bar. Tenzin, in all his spiritual glory, had taken great pains to explain the meaning behind the symbol, for all the help it had given her. That is to say, none. Recreation, eternal cycles, the coiled serpentine Kundalini energy found in every person's root chakra, everything that was fascinating to him yet brought her no closer to her goal. It's not like the members had this tattooed on their foreheads like his arrows, for crying out loud.
The citizens of Republic City, while not afraid, where certainly becoming wary and less trusting of one another. There had been no correlation yet between whether benders or non-benders were more likely to join, and so anyone could be part of this new Clan without their neighbor being aware.
And every person living here was looking to Lin to put a stop to this. She was trying her best, regardless of what the papers and radio said against her every day. It was wearing her ragged.
She thought of the coin, tucked into the drawer of her nightstand.
Lin turned slowly, her eyes finding Hutou, her personal secretary, standing in the doorway of her office. He was aged, nearly seventy, but his eyes and his wit were sharp and he had no desire to retire any time soon. Hutou had a fierce loyalty to her, she had recognized it since the day he starting simply taking small messages for her, and she admired him greatly for his tenacity.
"This arrived for you, Chief," he said, coming inside and handing her a thick envelope. "One of the officers downstairs brought it up, said a messenger off the street came in with it."
She looked at him for a moment, weighing his concern, and slipped her finger under the red wax to pop it open. There was a note inside, folded over once around a thin metal object. She pulled both out, flipping open the note as the aluminum piece warmed in her hand.
Leave this alone or we take what means most.
That was all the note said, written quickly in a cheap brush – she could tell by the scratchy letters and splotches of ink left behind. She refolded the paper, turning her attention to the bit of metal. Her heart leapt into her throat. It was Tenzin's official seal, the one he left at city hall to press into the wax dripped on envelopes just like this. She looked at both the parchment and envelope again in a rush, feeling the quality to them, and knew immediately everything in her hands had come from Tenzin's desk.
"Call Della in here," she whispered, hardly trusting her voice. She cleared her throat, speaking louder when she added, "and Mako, and whoever is in the detective's squad room. I want them in here now."
Hutou didn't even bow before turning and hastening out of her office to gather everyone he could find, the force of her command forcing him into action.
Lin took several deep breaths, her eyes darting back to the window again as she clutched her fist around the seal. The sun was rising toward noon, trying to bring the day to the warm early autumn temperature it had been teasing for the last week, but she was unable to see the beauty in the brilliant blue of the sky. Things were changed suddenly, her way clear, and the weight on her shoulders much heavier than it had been before.
Mako's voice brought her around again, and she was silent until he, Della, Jaluu, and Iskar were gathered around her desk. "Where is everyone else?" she asked.
"Working," Della said, hesitating at the bite to the inquiry. "They told Sergeant Lunzul where they are, it's all been logged just like you asked us to do."
Lin nodded dismissively, getting her answer and not caring about the rest. "Fine, fine. All right, I want all of you to listen to me," she said, looking at each detective in turn and holding their uneasy eyes. "I am leaving. I've had this trip planned for months, do you hear what I'm saying? Master Tenzin and I are going to the South Pole," she expanded, putting emphasis where it belonged in her story. "We're going to visit his mother and I do not know when we will return."
"But Korra didn't say anything about -"
"Shut up, Mako. Tenzin and I are leaving in two hours." Lin leaned forward on her desk, arms planted wide, as she stared at them sternly. "Go tell everyone you know about my long, well-planned trip. Everyone. Make sure it spreads, and make sure they know where I am going and that it has been in the works since the spring."
Jaluu nodded, her face worried. "You're not really leaving us now, Chief, are you? We – we need you here, don't we?" A soft murmur of agreement went up through the small group.
Lin's expression hardened before she could change her mind. "You'll be fine. Continue with the current safety protocol set in place during my absence. You will report to Sergeant Lunzul until my return, and to Hutou for any personal matters." She made a shooing motion with one hand, straightening her back to stand again. "Go, get the rumor mill started. Della, you stay."
The young woman watched her fellow detectives depart, their postures wary, and turned to look at Lin. She gestured for her to sit this time in one of the chairs on the other side of her desk. Della did so silently, waiting for her to speak first.
"Do you still have any family here?"
The question took her a bit by surprise, and she stuttered a moment at the personal information she was so unused to sharing with her boss before finding an answer. "I – I do. My, um, I'm married. I have a husband and a two-year-old daughter."
"Della, I need you to stay here and work. But your husband and – spirits, girl, I didn't realize your child was still so young." Lin sat in her large chair and lowered her head into her hand, closing her eyes for a beat as she saw the danger unfolding. "As I said, I need you to stay. Tell your husband to take your daughter and leave. If the Clan finds out you're working this case, they won't be safe."
"But I'm sure they'll be fine -"
"No, Della, they won't!" Lin's voice had risen and, at the stricken look on Della's face, she reined herself back in. "If they're threatening to come after me, they won't hesitate to hurt you or your family."
She was silent for a moment before nodding in acquiescence. "His parents are from the Fire Nation, I can ask him to go there tonight."
"Call him as soon as you leave this office." Lin waited for her to nod again and continued. "You, though…while I'm gone I need you to find out who those people are, the man and woman from the bar yesterday morning. No more on the case than that, only their identities."
"And do not let Lang leave this building for any reason. Be sure everyone knows that. Place him under arrest for public drunkenness if you must, but he is not to step foot outside."
Della watched as Lin took a deep breath and released it, but she was finished giving orders and was in no mood to open up with any of her own personal details. She nodded once toward the door. "Thank you, detective. You are dismissed."
The moment Della left the room, Hutou came back inside. "Shall I call to City Hall for Master Tenzin?"
"No." Lin shook her head, getting to her feet again restlessly. "I'm going myself. I won't be back today, or for several more. Please give Lunzul the information I gave the detectives. The rest of the station is to report to him as well. I do apologize for my sudden disappearance, Hutou, I wasn't intending to fly out the door quite like this."
"No apology necessary, Chief Beifong," he told her with a small smile, standing back as she grabbed her heavy coat off the rack by the door and turned out the lamp on her desk. She slipped Tenzin's seal and the letter into her pocket. "Going out the main doors or through the tunnels in the basement?"
"Basement, I think. Just in case."
Hutou gave her a low bow when she bid him farewell, crossing to the far side of the office to slide open a nearly hidden door with her bending that exposed a narrow staircase. It led to every floor of the building, an access point to any possible location during an emergency – or a blind exit, such as this. She slid the door closed again and began to descend the stairs to the lowest level. Electric lights dotted the walls every so often and her eyes adjusted quickly, her feet pumping down flight after flight, passing other doors, until she came to the basement and the stairs evened into a long hallway. There were three doors here, one leading to the immense training caverns, one to the holding cells where the worst criminals were kept until transport, and the last led outside. Only an Eartbender could open it, shifting the rock-made gears into a very specific code to coax the lock to unlatch. She and two other ranking officers in the precinct knew this passage even existed, much less the puzzle-like key to open the door. While Hutou was the fourth person to know of the tunnel, he was not a bender and so could not use it at all.
The sun was deceptively bright, and it was chilly when she rounded a corner to keep out of sight in the shadows. Lin wasn't actually sure if Tenzin was at City Hall, given he had retired many years ago. Raiko relied on him heavily, though, and he came in three days a week or so, working a very light load and sharing an office that used to belong only to him with a junior undersecretary or some such. Lin didn't really care enough to get to know the young man, only holding onto the information about him that mattered – that he was using half of Tenzin's office, which would have bothered the shit out of her, if she were in Tenzin's place. He, however, hadn't complained a lick.
City Hall rose on her left as she passed into another side street and she looked over both shoulders before crossing out into the open yard in the direction of the main doors. No one took any notice of her. The aide working at the front desk looked up at the metallic clacking of her boots, surprised to see Lin walking toward her. Not giving her a chance to speak, she asked, "Is Master Tenzin in today?"
"Yes, he is. He just arrived about an hour ago. Shall I -"
Lin didn't wait for her to ask about calling ahead, striding right past the desk and into the depths of the hall to where the offices were. Tenzin's door was ajar and she pushed it all the way open, catching sight of both him and the little junior undersecretary inside. The younger man, sitting closest to the door, caught side of her first, frowning at her lack of polite introduction before barging inside, but went back to work without a word.
"You and I," she said to Tenzin, grabbing his arm from behind before he had even fully realized she was there, "are late leaving for our trip."
He cut his surprised question off at the look of warning on her face, stumbling behind her as she pulled him out into the hallway. She reached into her pocket to pull out the seal, smacking it into his hand the moment they stilled against an alcove in the wall. "Missing something?"
"I – where did you get this?" He turned the metal stamp over in his hand, recognizing it right away as his own. His eyebrows came together, not missing the way Lin kept looking over her shoulder and his. "What is going on here? Where did this come from? I used it yesterday, it was locked in my desk when I left yesterday afternoon."
Lin pursed her lips, tongue sneaking out to wet them as she eyed the piece in agitation. "It was delivered to me this morning. Along with this, the paper of which I believe also came from your desk." She handed him the note, watching with a heavy heart as his face fell as he read it. "So -" She snatched both the seal and the paper back, shoving them into her pocket again. "You and I are leaving. Come on. Do you have your glider? I don't want to walk or take the ferry."
"Yes, I flew this morning. If you wait here -"
"No!" Her face flushed slightly at the urgency to the word, but she grabbed at his wrist anyway, keeping him at her side. "We're staying together. I'm not letting you out of my sight, not now."
"All right." He turned his hand slightly, enough to let hers slide into his palm, though they released the hold quickly. Anyone could walk by and see, after all, and these were not rumors they wanted spreading. "My children, Lin, are they in any danger?"
She swallowed, following now as he led her back to his office to gather his traveling cloak and gilder. "I don't think so," she said softly before they reached the doorway. "The threat was clearly addressed to me, saying they would hurt the person I cared about if I didn't back off. That would be you, not your kids. I mean, not saying I don't care about them, of course I do, but you – well."
He paused just outside the door to peer at her silently over his shoulder for a moment, his expression one of tenderness, then went inside to collect his things and give the same ready-made excuse Lin provided.