Detective Fiction Shu Lo Hong Solves the Theftless Theft Mystery
Part 1: Playing the Player.
As the sun rose over Las Vegas valley, it squeezed morning light through the shuttered window slits of a sparsely lit, smoke filled card room which often ran all night in China town – just blocks from casino strip Boulevard. A single Texas Hold ‘em table remained live in the room and three active players were still in the game. One of the players was Shu Lo Hong who was well known locally for his analytical prowess as a professional investigator, and for putting that prowess into action at the local poker tables. Shu Lo was also well known for his flamboyant mannerisms which tended to boost the image of prowess he had become so renown for even more. His hair was groomed like Elvis and he wore wire rimmed glasses which enhanced the keenly alert gleam in his eyes. He also liked to wear fancy shoes and silk shirts, complemented with gold cuff links, rings, and other bling.
The other two players were Sid and Danny, tourists from California whom had veered from the glimmer and glamor of regular Vegas to seek out local excitement China town style, and found it. Having played throughout the night, the stakes continued escalating and the action eventually led to a hand in which anticipation was clearly mounting as Sid took considerable time to ponder his next move. The lingering tension of the moment broke when Sid made a resolute declaration of “All in”. Danny folded without much ado, thus passing the action to Shu Lo who paused briefly to reflect and pushed matching chip stacks into the pot. Sid turned over an impressive top two pair, kings and jacks, but Shu Lo had that beat with a three threes. This pot was a whopper and it rattled bountifully, like music to the ears, as Shu Lo raked the portly pot full of chips towards him. He then announced politely “Thank you gentleman. Morning is upon us. I’ll be cashing out now.”
Sid congratulated Shu Lo on winning the biggest pot of the night and asked in a rhetorical tone “You were pretty sure lowest trips on board was good enough to call that huge bet, weren’t you?” Always the dapper gentleman and out of respect for Sid’s big loss, Shu Lo replied humbly “I took a shot on a hunch and hit with my lucky threes.” The action in the room was now dead so Sid and Danny gave Shu Lo a half-hearted open rematch invitation, then said their goodbyes and left. Meanwhile, Shu Lo’s lovely female business partner, Wai Tsin, had come in to the card room to drive him home and she had witnessed the hand. Wai Tsin knew Shu Lo’s keen mind well from her many years of employment at his investigations practice, so she didn’t buy that hunch bit for a moment.
While accompanying Shu Lo to the card room banker to cash out, Wai Tsin asked what his angle had been. A tad aloof, his response was “I inferred from what initially appeared to be a clueless scenario. Sid only called before the flop. Not much information there, but his prior play implied he held a better hand than if he had folded and a weaker hand than if he had raised, so I gauged his holding to be of medium strength.” Wai Tsin quickly countered “Sure, that’s basic poker for any solid player, but knowing you, there was more to it, wasn’t there?” At that, Shu Lo expressed pride in his partner’s insight and let her in on a little ruse he used known as the reverse tell. “In a few earlier small pots” Shu Lo explained “I bet average hands while subtly blinking my eyes and slowing my breath to suggest a tell. Danny was oblivious, but Sid noticed and began raising me with marginal hands. Sure enough, he took the bait when I feigned the tell again by betting the turn with a good hand.“
“Hence my dear,” Shu Lo elaborated, “It was a solid poker move with a little help from observation, inference, and misdirection. The trick is to limit this move to average hands with improvement potential, and plant the tell in small pots while slowly pumping the stakes up for later. By inducing an opponent to raise, he’ll think it’s his idea and is therefor much more likely to volunteer the action. Take a lesson from this Wai Tsin, convincing someone a decision you want them to make is their own idea, is the first premise for any successful ruse.” Touche Shu Lo” Wai Tsin applauded “Cool move. Come on, I’ll drive you home and brief you underway on a new case that just came in.“
Part 2: No apparent suspect or motive
As Wai Tsin drove Shu Lo home, she gave him the details of a break and entry case which occurred late that night at import company Dang Gu. Evidence was found proving a means of entry, but the trail went cold for a means of exit as if the trespasser had simply vanished. Aside from the break-in damage, no other harm or theft appeared to have taken place, but security did find a golden artifact in an area where it did not belong – moved for no apparent reason. The case was reported to the cops by Dang Gu security, who thought the trespasser might be hiding on the premises, but a thorough search yielded nothing. Security called us in to find out why no evidence of an exit was found, nor an apparent motive. Perked up by the curious case, Shu Lo was raring to tackle it. Always tirelessly alert, he didn’t sleep much anyway so he announced “There’s a fresh case to chase, let’s drive to Dang Gu.”
Upon arriving, lead detective Lex Straid was still on scene, and advised the cops had the case on hold pending further leads. He also briefed them on what was known thus far and guided them to where a rope was found hanging from the building rooftop to the grounds. Dang Gu’s grounds were enclosed by an ornate, eight foot high, spiked iron fence and had a manned security station around the clock at its only access point. The rope was looped around the base of the rooftop air conditioning system with a slip-noose, and hung on the side of the building away from the security station. Entry into the building was made by breaking into the ventilator shaft system. Security logs recorded no events prior to discovering the break-in, nor did the well maintained lawns show any sign of recent tread. Given the hanging rope, lariat loop, and slim fit of the air shafts, Lex jested awkwardly that the suspect must be a mountain climbing, rodeo riding, leprechaun-magician. Shu Lo replied loftily “Consider everything, then exclude the impossible and logically deduce from the plausible what is probable versus improbable, and eliminate by priority from there.” Lex shrugged that off, but Wai Tsin snickered silently sensing a quip on Lex’s history of jumping to conclusions in prior cases.
After studying the area where the rope hung, Shu Lo advised “All is not what it seems”. He then asked Lex to radio the K-9 unit and an officer with scent dog was dispatched to Dang Gu within moments. The dog tracked the scent and confirmed it was the same on the roof, rope, and inside the building, but no matching scent was found outside on the grounds. It was indeed as though the trespasser disappeared without a trace. While Wai Tsin, Lex, and the K-9 officer found this befuddling, Shu Lo had a spring in his step like he had a theory. He thanked Lex and the K-9 officer and suggested he and Wai Tsin continue the investigation independently. They would contact Lex with any new developments. Upon their departure Wai Tsin inquired “OK Shu Lo, I know that look, you have a theory and like its chances.” Haughtily, Shu Lo advised “Indubitably my dear, like Sid’s call before the flop which gave little data but implied a lot, the seemingly cold trail in this case is of analogous ilk.”
“Once again,” Shu Lo asserted, “we lack specific information. And yet, we may confidently infer that no one would go to such lengths to enter a building without a tangible motive, or means of exit. Therefor, something was sought after, and we must find out what that something was.” He recommended they get with Dang Gu Security and their audit staff to reconcile inventory with company records to double check if anything was overlooked. A few paper chasing hours later, it was concluded that nothing was missing from inventory. However, the valuable golden artifact, originally reported as moved, was unaccounted for. With that finding, Shu Lo took Wai Tsin aside to share his thoughts about Dang Gu perhaps dealing in black market items on the side, in which case the books reflected only official inventory. Shu Lo thought it likely there were more inventory items kept off the books, one of which was of particular interest to the trespasser. If so, then that implied motive, and quite possibly a privately geared motive. That could then explain the extra item and why the break and entry into the building might have occurred.”
With the evidence leaning towards black market involvement, Shu Lo and Wai Tsin decided to pay a visit to Freddy, a small time handler of “second hand” goods, to see if he knew of any under the table interest in Dang Gu merchandise. They drove to a dingy part of downtown to a thrift store run by Freddy and his wife which carried donated resale items in the front and items of more questionable origin in the back storage room for “alternative” markets. Freddy was indebted to them for finding his runaway daughter. At the time, he could not pay their fee, so he agreed to become their confidential “consultant” in lieu of payment, and was happy to oblige them now. There had been some interest in Siberian Mammoth ivory which only Dang Gu was rumored to carry locally. A man wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses had been asking around at places like Freddy’s about an antique sword with an intricately carved Mammoth ivory handle. Freddy described the man as an early middle aged, Asian male, with a small but toned physique and a heavy accent. Freddy could not identify the accent, but his wife, who had years of exposure to Asian accents as a travel agent, thought the secretive man could have been Mongolian.
Having taken a variety of art appreciation electives in college, it occurred to Wai Tsin that the undocumented golden statue at Dang Gu reminded her of other art from the Mongolian region. That seemed too coincidental, so they left the store and contacted Dang Gu security to have an officer meet them at UNLV with the statue for Noelle Ardzluvah, Ph.D. in Art History, to examine. After examining the figurine, Noelle confirmed it was indeed Mongolian, and explained it symbolized a venerable patriarch adorned in magnificent formal garb local to the region. The endless knot icon on the statue’s back displayed a continuous pattern of quadrangular loops which represented eternal hope for the future. Per Noelle, the statue dated from the middle ages and the majestic golden patriarch strongly indicated it was the type of object passed down from one family generation to the next. She also expressed surprise that such an obviously precious ancestral antique was not still in the family’s possession and thought they must have been hard pressed to let it go.
Shu Lo thanked Noelle and the Dang Gu security officer and said resolutely “Come Wai Tsin, we have much to do. Let’s go back to Dang Gu.” While driving, Shu Lo summarized “We know the dog found a scent on the roof, inside, and on the rope, but then lost the scent between the rope and the grounds. Thus the rope is central to this mystery and it must yield what it knows if we are to proceed.” This had nagged on Wai Tsin’s mind also, and when they returned to where the rope hung, she expressed serious doubts about anyone being able to lasso the air system base from the ground. She also pointed out that the rope was cut where it hung on the grounds, yet intact on the roof, and was much longer than needed to reach the rooftop. “Indeed that is the dilemma,” Shu Lo concurred “why cut the rope at all if not to match the height of the building? The dog found no scent on the grounds, so the rope could not have been used from there. In turn, that explains the rope length being well beyond the height of the building. We assumed the vertical perspective upon seeing a hanging rope, whereas we should actually have been thinking horizontally. That rope was not for climbing up or down the building, it was for travelling across from another building, and the length of that rope can tell us which one.”
They headed to Dang Gu’s roof and pulled up the rope to measure it for comparison with distances to neighboring buildings. From this data the source was quickly identified, so they headed there to see what they could find. Starting at the top of the source building, they noticed foot scuff marks in recent pigeon droppings on the roof side closest to Dang Gu. They also found depleted fishing line spools for which the labels indicated they ranged in strength from light, to medium, to heavy. Perplexed at first, Shu Lo soon hollered “Eureka! The lariat loop mystery eludes us no longer. Note the above average amount of recent pigeon droppings in this area relative to elsewhere on the roof. A trained pigeon flew U-turns from here and back with light weight fishing line attached it. This likely involved several tries with hits and misses, hence the plentiful pigeon droppings, but eventually the suspect would get access to the end of the line strung around Dang Gu’s rooftop air system base. The end of the light line could then be tied to progressively stronger lines, and ultimately to the rope, all of which were pulled around the base and back to the suspect. That eventually got the rope around the base, and it’s end was then pulled through a slipknot until a secure travel conduit existed between the buildings.”
Note: might need to change to multiple pigeons with light line only (explains lotsa poop and makes the method of pulling in the ropes less complicated)
Shu Lo paused to summarize “The rope was too heavy for a pigeon to fly with, so this clever work around solved that problem. It was also inconspicuous since pigeon activity is common and draws little attention, especially at night. The flaw was the slip knot prevented the rope from being retrieved, so it had to be cut, and that allowed us to infer the method.” Eager to follow through, Wai Tsin remarked “And that was not the only flaw either. Notice the pigeon poop step smudges leading towards the entry door. Let’s call Lex on the cell phone to dispatch the K-9 officer again to see if we can trace that trail“. As soon as the officer arrived, the dog led them to an apartment in the building. The officer rang the bell intending to search and interrogate the occupant. After several tries, there was no answer so, having probable cause, Shu Lo picked the lock and they entered the apartment. The furnishings and other household articles suggested the occupant was of Mongolian origin.
Part III - Dramatic conclusion
They searched the apartment and found employment paperwork indicating the occupant was a professional acrobat and animal trainer working with a sourcing company supplying talent to many of the big production shows on the Las Vegas strip. Also found was a magnificent sword with carved Mammoth ivory handle, like the item Freddy had told them about. Technically, the sword was not part of inventory so no proof of felony burglary existed. There was only proof of misdemeanor breaking and entering, but it was highly likely the two were related. A consult with the landlord revealed the occupant paid cash, and was leasing the apartment monthly. His lease was likely signed with a pseudonym but the landlord was able to described the man as a slim, athletic male of small stature in his mid 30’s and of Asian ethnicity. This corroborated what they had heard from Freddy. Shu Lo suggested they stake out the building from outside since surely the man would return for the splendid sword.
Several hours of uneventful surveillance from the car transpired before the Mongolian man returned. Detective Lex was on standby to dispatch an officer with a warrant for the man’s arrest upon being sighted. A theory was developing in Shu Lo’s mind about the unaccounted for golden patriarch statue, so Lex agreed Shu Lo could be the first person to interrogate the man at the police station. No sooner did the Mongolian man turn up, than a police officer arrived at his apartment to apprehend him and the suspected stolen merchandise. When booked and processed, it was revealed the man was indeed Mongolian and his name was Bat Oyon. He was brought to the interrogation room and seated across from Shu Lo who was waiting for him with the golden patriarch statue and ivory handled sword on a desk in plain view. Intending to get a gut-reaction before a cover story could be thought of, Shu Lo got straight to the point and asked “Please tell me about this marvelous golden patriarch statue, Bat Oyon? I believe you left it at Dang Gu as compensation for removing this glorious ivory handled sword, is that correct?”
It soon became clear that Bat Oyon was an honorable man not ordinarily prone to dishonesty. He regretted his transgressions and explained how circumstances drove him to take matters into his own hands. Bat Oyon told a sad tale of his extended family whom had once been a fiercely proud nomadic Mongolian tribe. Many hardships had since befallen the tribe. Over time, most had succumbed to illness and the few that remained retreated to the cities. The brave autonomous lifestyle of the nomadic tribe had become a thing of the past, and the only surviving member who had lived that way in his youth was Bat’s grandfather who passed away a few days ago. As the last living tribesman of the old ways, the grandfather had inherited the patriarch, and the sword he had earned through an act of courage. Those items represented the last precious vestiges of the tribe’s once highly revered heritage which now existed only as folklore among the sparse remains of its lineage.
Bat Oyon admitted to removing the sword from Dang Gu so that he could honor his grandfather at his funeral with the most highly valued item embodying his tribe’s identity. In his defense Bat stated the sword had been stolen from his grandfather years ago and only recently had he heard whispers from another Mongolian with whom he worked, that a sword matching the unique handle carving had become available on the black market. Per Bat, Dang Gu was one of several agents between whom the sword was traded so was not directly responsible for it’s theft. Bat tried to purchase the sword through underground channels, but was unsuccessful. Dang Gu probably feared legal repercussions from unknowingly possessing the stolen sword. Not knowing otherwise, Bat could not dishonor his grandfather by taking the sword without compensating the owner. He therefor left behind the statue which had a commercial value exceeding that of the sword. Bat explained his grandfather had won the hand in wedlock of the tribe leader’s daughter by boldly saving his life from a snow leopard. To commemorate the wedding, the tribe leader had the sword crafted with a stunningly carved Mammoth ivory handle depicting the young man’s heroic deed. This was the highest possible honor the tribe could bestow upon a member. It was also a dear reminder of the lifetime of true love the grandfather spent with a woman he never stopped adoring until her demise.
Untypical for Shu Lo, who always seemed detached and focused primarily on pursuing the logic of a case to conclusion, this case had touched his heart. Struggling not to appear watery-eyed, Shu Lo said to Bat “in all my years of solving cases, I have experienced many mysteries, but this case has become less about logic and the letter of the law than it is about compassion. At the start of this case the mystery was a vanishing trespasser, but now it would seem something else entirely has vanished, and that something is the case itself.” Shu Lo advised, other than the break and entry for which he could understand mitigating circumstances existed, he could discern no malicious intent. Dang Gu was well compensated, and a coveted item representing the pinnacle of the grandfather’s identity as a tribesman was returned to it’s rightful owner, albeit posthumously. Shu Lo assured Bat that he could persuade Dang Gu not to press charges as they would want to avoid legal scrutiny in this matter anyway. Lex would be accommodating also, since Shu Lo had more than once assisted him in solving cases where his tendency to jump to conclusions had led him astray.
© 2015 Vortrek Grafix