A gust of wind rattled the silent street in front of the Republic City Police Station as the great flying bison touched down. Tenzin gracefully leapt from the saddle and his eyes swept over the scene in front of him. Sunrise was only half an hour ago, but it seemed that the majority of Republic City's police officers were huddled outside on the steps in front of the Station. Tenzin had been in the middle of his sunrise meditation when he had been interrupted by an urgent call from the President: Republic City Police Station had been attacked.
The Police Station had been left relatively unharmed in Kuvira's destruction of the city almost a year ago. It had been one of the first buildings to be fixed downtown. It had been decided that although Republic City would be expanding, some of the more historical parts of downtown would be rebuilt. Two other smaller stations had been built in the newer neighborhoods, but the downtown Republic City Police Station was still a symbol of the city.
As he was no longer on the Council, Tenzin was unsure of why President Raiko had summoned him to the crime scene, but his stomach turned when he saw the President standing with Mako in front of the entrance to the Station. The thought was automatic: something had happened to Lin Beifong. Why else would President Raiko be here at the scene or had called for Tenzin to be here too? When Tenzin finally made his way up the steps, he was alarmed when President Raiko reached out and touched his shoulder in a comforting manner.
"I'm sorry to call you here so early, Tenzin," he started gravely. Tenzin felt his heart stop beating for a moment. This wasn't just an attack. Something devastating was waiting inside. His eyes shifted from the President to Mako, but the young man was staring intently at the ground.
Tenzin tried to steady his voice and push the thought of Lin in pain to the back of his mind. "What happened?"
President Raiko's lips pulled into a thin line and he murmured softy, "It's a mess in there, I'm afraid. But I wanted to tell you in person. This is a loss for the whole city, but for your families in particular-"
If the President kept talking, Tenzin wouldn't have known. The blood rushed to his ears and his entire body felt as if it were frozen. A loss…that's what he said. Loss. Tenzin wouldn't be here if an officer had died in the line of duty. He was here because Lin was dead. Lin was the loss. President Raiko was trying to tell him that Lin was dead.
"Where is she?" Tenzin asked suddenly, his heart pounding in his chest.
Finally, Mako spoke, "We haven't moved her body yet. Protocol is to document the scene first. And it has taken a while to figure out who is in charge."
"Assistant Chief Saikhan was also murdered last night," said President Raiko quickly. "There were five officers who were killed as well and four that are in critical care at the hospital as we speak."
"This was a massacre," whispered Tenzin, allowing the shock to settle in. Lin was dead. She was gone. She wasn't wait for him inside or trying to solve this vicious crime. Lin was dead.
His eyes finally focused back on the President who was waiting patiently for Tenzin to take in all of this. Tenzin and President Raiko weren't particularly friends, but respect had developed between them over the years. President Raiko silently motioned for them to enter the station. Mako was already opening the door, but Tenzin wasn't sure if he was ready for this. He wasn't sure he was ready to see Lin without the life in her eyes.
"Do you need a moment?" asked President Raiko with pity in his eyes. "I want you to know that I am personally involved in this. Chief Beifong was a great asset to this city and she personally saved my life numerous times. I know that you knew her for most of her life, but I want you to know that this city will not rest until we catch those who are responsible."
Tenzin wasn't sure how, but he managed to reply, "Thank you, Mr. President." Summoning all of his strength, Tenzin followed the President and Mako through the double doors of the Republic City Police Station. Before he entered, he glanced up at the metal statue of Toph Beifong. The great metalbender loomed over him and he knew nothing would ever be the same. Lin was dead. There was no longer a Beifong on the police force.
The entry hall was void of people except for two metalbending officers guarding the entrance to the offices. Tenzin's feet felt like lead as he followed the President and Mako across the hall. Nothing had been disturbed in the entry, which meant the carnage would be in the offices themselves. Normally Tenzin would have asked how any perpetrators had gotten so far into the building without being stopped, but he was trying to summon the courage to keep walking. Because Lin was dead and he had no idea how to be in a world without Lin Beifong.
Mako hesitated at the door and President Raiko quickly said, "Why don't you wait for the Avatar, Officer Mako."
"Yes, sir," was his clipped response. Mako bowed his head toward Tenzin and then hurried back outside. President Raiko nodded to the two officers at the door and pushed through into the offices.
The offices were unrecognizable. Broken desks and chairs were strewn about the room and there were scorch marks on the walls and ceiling. Abandoned metal cables covered the floor. At first Tenzin was confused to see white blankets randomly around the room until he realized the sheets were covering bodies. His stomach turned. There were six sheets that covered the bodies of the officers who were on duty last night. Was one of them Lin? Including Assistant Chief Saikhan, there were seven people killed. So one was missing.
There were three officers taking pictures of the scene. None of them spoke, but they all paused when Tenzin and the President entered. It took Tenzin a moment to realize that their looks of grief and pity were directed at him, not the President. They all knew how close their Chief had been to Tenzin and his family.
President Raiko was purposely stepping through the rubble toward another officer in a metalbending uniform standing in front of the Chief's office. Lin's office. Tenzin suddenly realized where the missing white sheet was. Lin was in her office. And she was dead.
"This is Captain Roan. He is leading the investigation about this tragedy. I've instructed him to keep you updated on all information regarding the case."
Captain Roan was a tall man with long hair that he wore pulled back away from his face. There was nothing distinguishing about his face, but his eyes were determined. Tenzin felt suddenly comforted when Captain Roan spoke in a low, husky voice, "Master Tenzin. I am honored to meet you, but I wish it were under different circumstances. One of my friends became an airbender after Harmonic Convergence and he speaks very highly of you."
Tenzin wasn't sure what to say and glanced nervously towards Lin's office. She was in there, alone, and they were out here sharing pleasantries. The President seemed to sense his uneasiness and said to the Captain, "Tenzin would like to see the Chief."
At first Captain Roan hesitated, saying, "Sir, we could escort you to the morgue and you could wait for us to finish processing the scene."
Heat rose into Tenzin's cheeks and he snapped, "I am not asking permission!"
"It's not that, sir," replied Captain Roan softly. "I just don't think you want to see her this way…"
The anger that had been quick to rise in his chest vanished and Tenzin looked guiltily at the door. If they didn't want him to see her, that meant she had suffered. That her body was not presentable to him. Bile rose in his throat as he looked around the room. How had this happened? These were police officers, not some random citizens. Who could have murdered seven people in the Police Station? How had they over powered Lin Beifong?
Tenzin's mind was resolved. "I need to see her."
Captain Roan nodded stiffly and then knocked twice on the office door. The door was opened by a female officer with a pale face and tired eyes. Tenzin felt a rush of relief that someone was watching over Lin, even in death. But he didn't know why he had thought no one would; her officers respected their leader more than anyone. Lin was good to her people and her people were good to her. Lin wasn't always friendly, but she was loyal.
"Master Tenzin would like a moment with the Chief."
The woman nodded and stepped out of the room, murmuring, "I'm sorry for your loss."
Not able to find the words to respond, Tenzin merely nodded at her and entered the room. He wasn't sure what he was expecting. Blood all over the walls or just a lifeless body in the middle of the floor? There was none of that. A table had been over turned and there was paperwork scattered around the room, but otherwise the Chief's office was undisturbed in comparison to the offices outside. But when Tenzin finally looked at the desk at the end of the room, he could no longer control his grief.
Tears fell freely down his face as he stood in the middle of the room, alone. Lin Beifong was tethered to her chair, dried blood on her face, and a dagger sticking out of her chest. Her eyes were closed and he felt an odd sense of relief of not having to stare into her lifeless eyes. Step by step he forced himself closer, choking on the emotions raging through his body.
Lin's long, thin fingers were paler than usual and her red, raw wrists were bound to the chair. She had obviously tried to free herself from the restraints. Her legs were obscured by her desk, but Tenzin guessed that her legs were similarly tied. Someone had hit her several times in the face, but enough time had passed since her death that the bruises had settled into the white skin. The dried blood appeared to be from a cut on her forehead and her gray hair was matted near the wound.
A gasp left Tenzin when he realized that the metal of her uniform had been forcibly pulled apart over her heart where the fatal dagger was embedded. A metalbender had done this. Only a metalbender would have been able to penetrate her uniform. Furry was overcoming the feeling of grief as he processed the information: a metalbender had murdered the daughter of the first metalbender. He was gasping for air between sobs as he stood, hunchbacked, in front of her desk. Lin was dead.
The room was silent except for his sobs. Tenzin could have stood there forever, not wanting to accept the truth. He didn't want to deal with the consequences. At the moment he couldn't even imagine going after the people responsible. All of his energy had been wrenched from his body. For this last moment, it was just he and Lin. His thoughts flew rapidly through his brain: he should have protected her.
Madly, he laughed. Protect Lin Beifong? No one protected a Beifong, but a Beifong. That woman was tough as platinum. She was strong. If Lin couldn't save herself, then no one could. But somewhere in his gut, Tenzin kept feeling he could have saved her; should have saved her. Those officers laying just as lifeless in the other room was testimony that there was no way Tenzin could have stopped the monsters who did this. If by some chance he had been here, there was a possibility he would have been dead too.
"Oh, Lin. I'm so sorry," he cried. Tenzin knew he shouldn't touch anything, because the officers weren't done with their investigation. But he couldn't resist the urge to walk around the desk and brush a stray strand of grey hair out of her face. Tenzin had no idea what to do now. The thought of never leaving this room was ridiculous, but it crossed his mind nevertheless. If he left this room, Lin was gone and he would have to face the world without her. The world was going to have to keep going on without Lin Beifong. And Tenzin had serious doubts they would make it.