NP Holding Cells with Disappearance and HoundMan

The holding cells might not be the nicest place for Pirouette to revisit: not too recently, she'd found herself in a hotpot of suspicious NetPolice elements, mistrusting her fellow officers for the sake of unveiling a potential NetMafia plot. This time, she was back once again to pull the bedsheet off that particular ghost, but at least she (theoretically) could complete a mission without having to suspect her comrades for once. For that matter, she'd have some more familiar company this time around.

The setup of this holding area was slightly different than the others; it seemed she had entered a sort of waiting room, with a door leading out to the main corridor behind her and two doors in front of her, one locked with the words "HOLDING" written above it, and one unlocked with the words "VISITATION" above. One might imagine there was a glass wall or something of that sort inside, through which one might view the suspect in question. For now, neither door had any kind of window to see inside the room, so it would be left to her imagination.

In the center of the waiting room was a square table with four chairs. At one of these chairs, HoundMan was seated, rather unnaturally, sitting on his butt with his legs curled and his elbows on the table. He was dressed in his full armor this time around, which mean shifting metal ears adorned the flat surface of his helmet and a wagging, metal whip of a tail swiped the ground behind him. Although he sat with a frown on his face, it was an alert, dog-like frown; one might surmise he was excited about something.

Over at a water cooler, lifting up a full face-mask to drink, was a woman with purple-gray skin, wearing a black armor-skirt and armor-tube-top, with a black cloak covering the whole thing and bright red navi-suit underneath. The mask she'd lifted had a red slit across the eyes and no other features... but with it raised, one could see her own eyes had unnaturally flipped, wide pupils, similar to a red subtraction symbol as each pupil. A white tie, secured to the armor's vest by another red minus-shaped clip, completed the outfit, along with black, short boots and gloves. Her body looked very shapely based on the armor; one might speculate she was dressed to impress. A bit of dark silver hair spilled out from where she'd lifted the mask, but once it was back down, her head's hood and the mask together covered it.

The walls and floor were the usual sterile NetPolice white, but the navis weren't the only interesting aspect of the waiting room; also noteworthy were the multitude of bulletin boards that had been hung around the room's walls, even on the refrigerator (one might reflect this appeared to be a very comfortable setup for a waiting room and one might have a few guesses as to the reason). At first, Pirouette might think she would be able to glean all sorts of information from the papers hung up onto these boards with minus shaped clips, but a brief inspection would reveal the problem. An example of the writings:

Quote (Disappearance's writings)

Day 15
Tried utilizing REDACTED in an attempt to REDACTED the subject's favor. My REDACTED increased from 41 to 42. Not the result I was expecting nor hoping for. I must brainstorm new options. I noticed his mouth REDACTED when I attempted, to a slightly higher degree of success, the same REDACTED that I'd failed during yesterday's meeting. Not the result I was expecting nor hoping for. Prospects remain bleak.


Quote (Disappearance's writings)

Day 61

Even with the addition of REDACTED REDACTED, REDACTED the subject appears to show renewed favor for, my REDACTED has barely increased. 46 out of 47. Not the result I was expecting or hoping for. REDACTED tells me I'm doing good work, but I think I'm REDACTED REDACTED. REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED I want to REDACTED whenever I see this REDACTED magnifying glass start to expand and retract when I REDACTED his REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED. These are not the emotions I was expecting nor hoping for.


And so on. It seemed one of the chairs at the table was filled with a stack of binders, spilling over with other such reading material and checklists. Hopefully, Pirouette could extract a better briefing from her comrades' verbal testimony.
((Pirouette, From -> Her Home))
((Wearing PoliceGirl.GMO))
----

A bead of light, expanding into a tall oval of rushing light and feathers bust and faded away swiftly to leave Pirouette at the entry point of the holding area. she arrived dressed in her full uniform, blazer bearing the NP logo badge and her police hat tucked under one arm neatly. Despite the short skirt and white stockings ending in simple flat shoes, Pirouette herself still found her tendency was to rest on the balls of her feet, with her heels raised. She'd never been able to get used to wearing 'normal' shoes.

She took a moment to survey the room and its occupants before clearing her throat politely. It likely wasn't necessary, given that they would both have noticed and heard her arrival, but it was still proper. Her eyes lingered briefly on the sight of Houndman in his full uniform and the somewhat cute little affectations that seemed to be a part of it. The urge to smile at it was one she had to push down while reminding herself that she was on duty.

“Officer Disappearance, I presume? I am Pirouette. Officer Bayonet has assigned me to... assist in, you know, expediting the current situation here.” she gave a graceful salute as she spoke, then turned her gaze to HoundMan as well.

“And it good to see you again, Officer HoundMan. I do hope your progress has been on track since last we spoke, yes?” With a small grin, she walked across to the pinned documents, taking a look at them, and putting her back to where HoundMan was seated, and made a brief pretence of bending slightly to look more closely at one of them. It only lasted for a short moment though,before she turned back and stepped to the table, setting her hat down on it.

“Perhaps you can both get me up to speed on the situation, yes?” She glanced between the two, though in reality she was sure most of the information would be coming from Disappearance.
"Good to meet you, Pirouette. My name is Disappearance, but you can shorten it if you like," the dark-clothed NetPolice officer responded to Pirouette, offering a handshake. Her notes seemed pretty urgent (and strange) but she seemed very business-like in person.

"Officer HoundMan, reporting for duty!" HoundMan announced with a sharp salute, though he wasn't actually reporting anywhere. After all, he had already been seated when Pirouette entered the room. Pirouette would find him in much the same state of control as last time... namely, when she bent over, she heard the ear twitching and the tail wagging stop for a moment, as if he had become acutely focused on something. But by the time she got back up to a proper position, he was back to normal.

If Disappearance noticed this bit of testing/teasing, she didn't say anything about it or let on. "I'll tell you everything I know. If I omit any information, I will issue a 'reason code' for its omission at your request. For example, reason code 0001 would be for sensitive information that should not be shared outside of Internal Affairs, reason code 0002 could involve jeopardizing someone's physical well being, and so on," she began. "I'm told that I have a habit of omitting too much, but-" she paused, setting her mask down upon her face, "-OMITTED."

HoundMan gave Pirouette a sympathetic smile. "One of her error codes is 0102, that's 'omitted because the information is too embarrassing on a personal level.' She's been using that one a lot," he explained. "Aroo, respectfully request you not wear your mask during the briefing, Officer Disappearance!"

"... Noted," the girl answered, lifting it to reveal her odd, almost goat-like eyes again. "I saw Bayonet's briefing to you, it's all correct, so I'll just feel in the missing elements. Basically, AppraisalMan is a suspected mafia financier- a criminal- and I was assigned to make him talk. Why? I have my suspicions, but it's an odd case... I'm in Internal Affairs, not Investigations. The most investigating I ordinarily do involves spreadsheets and missing dollars..."

She walked over to her bulletin boards, scanning over the uselessly blackened papers as if she saw some meaning in them. "The guidelines for the interrogation seemed odd, too. More so, when they were strictly enforced. NightMan gave me a few rules... First, that I was not to harm the suspect. That is pretty normal, and as I understand it, is standard procedure here. Second: that I keep the subject here around the clock and he may not leave his room. I may not dismiss him for any reason. Third: without telling him in so many words, I essentially give him everything he wants- short of his release- until we get a confession or useful intel from him. At first... I found this strange, but I was willing to go along with it."

"She was a good officer! Did exactly what she was ordered," HoundMan pitched in unhelpfully, as if expecting Pirouette might find fault with the officer's blind loyalty here.

"Well, I figured that AppraisalMan would ask for the standard concessions: phone calls, maybe some sort of television or newspaper, perhaps recreational items. Bedding. Instead, from the very outset he has been... appraising me. On a scale from 0 to 100. He says that until I reach a score of 100, he is not willing to definitively confirm anything, whether he is involved or not." She paused for a moment to let that sink in, then continued. "I immediately brought up the oddness of his request to NightMan, but NightMan insisted the importance of this investigation meant that short of hurting anyone, we needed to use whatever means necessary. I approached my work in the same way: I was committed to play his game. Only..."

"Only you can't get a 100! It's impossible! The highest we've gotten is a 49, and that's working together!" HoundMan butted in, nearly jumping on the table. This seemed like just the sort of thing that would get him riled up. "Respectfully, ma'am, he's kind of a jerk! I think Disappearance is plenty good, she deserves at least close to 100, aroo!"

"Y-yes, thank you," she spoke awkwardly, lifting one hand to her mask as if she wanted to put it back down. "That aside... I'd be happy to provide you notes of what I expect is modifying the score, but I have to wonder if it's all pointless. It's as if he knows my orders... that is, it's as if he knows he can get away with anything for an endless period of time. He doesn't even seem to mind confinement. I was thinking... I'd like you to take the reins on this. HoundMan and I have discussed our options..."

"Yep. Our first option is we go back in and maybe the three of us can get it up to 100. Or just you, aroo! You're probably worth 100 by yourself!" he answered, unabashedly issuing an embarrassing compliment.

"I should warn you, he's... well, you probably guessed, but he's quite a fiend. With tastes he describes as 'exotic' and I would describe as 'unwholesome,'" Disappearance answered, now lowering her mask into place.

"Our second option is we go talk to Bank, Disappearance's boss, and try to get more answers outta her. NightMan isn't here, but Bank's always around. She's a little high strung and kinda snippy, but she's a hard worker, aroo," HoundMan added. "I'd rate her hmmm... maybe a 60."

"... Please don't say those things around her. And please stop appraising people," Disappearance begged quietly.

"Oh! Yes. I guess he rubbed off on me, ma'am!" HoundMan responded with his barking voice. "Third is uh... third is... if you have another idea we didn't already cover!" the officer finished, leaping up from the table and snapping another salute. "Oh, just so you know, NightMan has no cameras active in here or anything. Another condition of his was that nothing be recorded in here except for uh... pen and paper. Or by manual typing. Kinda weird there. But point being, I guess we are kinda on an honor system not to do the things he told us not to do."

"I already do a lot of typing, so I wasn't bothered. I find that it helps to reprocess the information," Disappearance added, omitting the part where it was also a useful way to allow her to draw huge black lines over whatever parts of her reports she didn't want to include for whatever reason. "Oh, and feel free to help yourself to anything in the fridge or the water... I added those myself since, well, I've spent weeks in here."
Pirouette shook hands with a greeting smile, but otherwise kept her expression calm and nodded occasionally as the two officers filled in more details about the situation, though it was hard to avoid a mildly dissatisfied pursing of her lips at certain points. She followed along, putting details together in her mind and trying to fit them into an overall picture of the setting. HoundMan's unthinking appraisal drew her eye and she had given him a small while her wings arched slightly before she caught herself preening under the compliment and regained her focus.

“So...” She started carefully, folding her hands in front of her at the table and ruffling her wings. “Officer Disappearance, your direct superior in Internal Affairs is mrs Bank, but you specifically were pulled from your normal duties to attend this questioning and investigation, yes? By NightMan, who is... aie... further up the chain, no?” She raised an eyebrow to confirm, tilting her head slightly, then continued. “During this time, Bank has been not only co-operative in your reassignment, but has insisted that you not seek any channels outside NightMan's direct command for being reassigned, this is correct, yes? She will not gainsay his order, or permit you to appeal to similarly ranked officials for second opinions?” She leaned back and recrossed her legs, tapping one finger thoughtfully as she folded her arms.

“Several issues come to mind from this, you know. Given the poor behaviour I have witnessed within the ranks of the net police so far, many uncharitable possibilities dominate my mind here...” she sighed and shook her head. “Let us suppose the most innocent situation for a moment – that NightMan believes... the word... aie... pandering, you know, to be the most straightforward way of achieving a confession. We suppose then that bank trusts his judgement in this completely, yes? then we ask, why you, Officer Disappearance?” Here, she flexed and ruffled her wings again, barely masking her disdain. “The only real answer, no, is that, if you did not know this AppraisalMan before... you did not? If you did not, then you can only have been selected based on...” she wrinkled her nose and failed to suppress a distantly disgusted sound. “Based on your form, your willingness to comply, and what NightMan or Bank know of this AppraisalMan's... tastes, you know.” She stood from the desk and walked about the room, stepping neatly from the ball of one foot to the next is measured, gliding steps until she stopped at the report notices again.

“If all that is the case, then the simple proof is the time; this has not been an efficient course of action, you know, and it is well past time to try something else. Few could argue this, if all else has been done in innocence and good faith, yes?” She read over the notices and reports again, mentally filling in many of the blanks in unfortunate ways. After a moment she turned back to Disappearance.

“If the situation is less innocent, then we have even less incentive to play along. If there is an internal motive here, it is our duty to expose it and root it out of the net police, yes? Suppose NightMan suspects Bank of corruption? How does it change the way in which this situation has played out? I suspect it would not look any different to you or I, no? Suppose NightMan himself is seeking to waste resources, or worse...” She glanced at the interview room door with a dark expression. “This also looks the same, so far. So, we tread carefully and we keep out eyes open.” she glanced back over her shoulder at the other officer in the room. “This includes you today, Officer HoundMan. Your role here is more valuable than perhaps you realise. Stay alert and pay attention, yes?”

She returned to looking about the room; they were appointed for the comfort and idea of longer-term occupancy than a simple interview and interrogation suggested, so either Disappearance had arranged these later as a concession, or someone on the chain knew full well that this was going to take too long. Though... Disappearance had mentioned adding in some of the furnishings herself. No guarantee then.

“I will speak with you both more soon, but first, I must form an opinion of our house guest, yes? An impression must be made, in both directions, before we continue. Officer disappearance, Officer HoundMan, what is the current state and situation of our friend? Is he restrained in some fashion, or simply confined. A follow up, as I suspect I know the answer... I would appreciate a functional set of virtucuffs, two if feasible, before heading in... and I should like Officer HoundMan to accompany me for this first meeting, if you please.”

As Pirouette moved to the pair of doors, contemplating, she stretched and folded her wings slowly. est case scenario, they were keeping him retrained already, thought that seemed unlikely. If Disappearance had requested another officer for fear of her safety, then it was likely AppraisalMan was doing more than just making her feel uncomfortable. If they didn't have any proper restraining equipment available that would be an annoyance, but she'd just have to work without, in some way. The innocent honesty in HoundMan's own compliment to her, and the unthinking, unmotivated openness of it was a small bead of light amidst the layers of suspicion that she seemed to always find herself in so far. She quieted the small smile that accompanied the thought and brought her mind back to the present focus.
"That's correct, Pirouette," Disappearance responded; her tone was even, but the briefing so far made it clear that she recognized how odd this must be. "If I were to try to rationalize it, I might say that something about this holding and interrogation is highly classified. I'd even suspected that's why I was pulled for it, as Bank and I both do tend to deal in sensitive work. However, the fact that even I myself am being kept in the dark makes me feel like a pawn in somebody's game..." She might want to name names, possibly NightMan's, but she didn't jump to it just yet. "And no, as far as I know, none of us have any ties to AppraisalMan from before we brought him in on suspicion of being a Mafia financier."

The officer's mask hid whatever reaction she had to being told that she was probably assigned here due to her body and her loyalty/gullability. "I have certainly pondered as much. Of course, if he really liked me that much, you'd think he would be a bit kinder with his appraisals," she sighed, perhaps as a half-hearted joke or perhaps as a genuine observation. "That said, my appraisals do tend to inch slightly higher when I appeal to his [REDACTED]."

"It's what you think it is, aroo," HoundMan pitched in helpfully, since Disappearance had hidden the critical word again.

Disappearance listened with interest to Pirouette's initial theories. "Being relatively unacquainted with NightMan- off the record?" she asked, sounding hopeful that Pirouette would grant her that request. "I had to suspect that NightMan is behind all of this. Either he wants to make Bank's department look foolish... or perhaps AppraisalMan is some friend of his and they're using me all they want, though it's hard to imagine how they thought they'd get away with doing it indefinitely. Even I wasn't complacent to let it go on indefinitely... I eventually reached out to Bayonet..." she pointed out. "The fact that he's been so difficult to just deepens that impression, of course... but apparently, that behavior was uncommon until we brought AppraisalMan in."

"I even pondered it might be NightMan in a GMO!" HoundMan pitched in. "Kinda makes sense, doesn't it?"

"Hm... I can see the motivation, but then you would really have to wonder about his end game. He can't hide in there forever and he can't be out of office forever," she mused, tilting her head slightly. "Plus, why now? NightMan has been a fixture in his department for a long time... Not ranked, but with a certain prestige all the same. It would certainly be a... creative way to achieve sexual harassment of one's underlings."

Conceding this point by lack of argument, HoundMan turned to listen to Pirouette again. "Oh, yeah. We should tell you a thing or two so you're ready for this guy," he responded with a quick salute. "He's not in cuffs and he's not even officially charged with a crime. That means that even though we brought him in, he's actually free to leave any time, as a reminder," HoundMan began, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "He's just sitting in that room over there. You'll see him behind the glass when you go into the other room. In his spare time, he seems to be keeping his work up. It looks like he's checking on diamonds, but they're actually uh, miniature data packets. He hasn't talked about that much, but that appears to be his work: appraising and reselling fragments of data. Must be more profitable than you'd think..."

"Uh, you should know, he's a big jerk. Looks friendly enough, but you'll learn pretty quick, aroo... he's always sizing you up and he's never satisfied. He's like a broken meter! Grades every little thing you do and it's never very high... If you were wondering how strong he is, I've got no idea. We're obviously not gonna use violence. I don't think he looks that tough though," HoundMan murmured. It sounded like it wasn't the first time he'd wondered how hard it would be to simply twist the man's arm until he gave up the info, a testament to how aggravating the man must be to deal with. "I don't see what's so great about him that he gets to be rude to everyone else..."

"Ah, chances are, he won't even talk to you if he doesn't appraise you at a 20 or so," Disappearance added. "He told me so in vague terms early on. You'll save a lot of time, probably, if you try to wear something a little sexy when you first meet with him. Sorry, that's just how it's gone.... If you'd like, I can give you a selection of GMOs to wear when you speak to him. I was going to try one of these in my next meeting with him..."

*Received SambaDance.GMO, NeonZombieCheerleader.GMO, HoundREDACTED.GMO*

"The first is a samba outfit. I'd been going down a list of sexy outfits and this is just one among them... I have no idea if it will work. The second is the latest in my ongoing efforts to combine themes for different results. I've received somewhat more erratic scores by doing this, some a bit higher, some a bit lower. The third is, er-" she paused, raising her mask from her face, "actually HoundBitch, which is a bit vulgar, but I was trying to modify different aspects like the very name of the GMO to see if that would make any difference for him. He seems to appreciate out of the box thinking... for a certain degree of 'appreciate,'" she muttered.

HoundMan's ears perked up. "Hound, like me?"

"Yes, I just thought I might coordinate my outfit with yours," she added. "See if that availed us any points."

"I was actually going into this next one as a pizza delivery guy, aroo," he added, painting a very hectic picture of what their guess and test must have been like so far. "I can still do that if ya want, Pirouete, ma'am. I don't have any other costumes, besides my swimsuit. I already tried that one," he explained. "Uh, if I wasn't clear, AppraisalMan grades me too and I usually score kinda similar to her. So I figure he's either just as into guys as he is gals or... I dunno. Maybe he isn't actually into anyone!"

Pirouette would have her choice of embarrassing costumes to wear in, or she might choose to flip the script by entering in her uniform.

----------

As they'd discussed, HoundMan and Pirouette would enter together, using whichever costumes Pirouette had deemed appropriate. The interview room was spoiled with all manner of "exotic" things that had been used to try to appeal to AppraisalMan, including a gaudy, pink stripper pole that seemed to briefly glow in the dark before the lights came on, a full-sized dinner table and place settings that had been pushed unceremoniously into one corner, a big pile of discarded clothing that included everything from a full-body fursuit to a business suit that would look tasteful out of the context that it had probably been taken off in here at some point,

On the other side of the glass, a man was seated, inspecting a tiny gem held between two pinched fingers. The man was tall and straight-sitting, with one leg crossed over, very still. His body was mostly concealed by a deep blue robe that could be mistaken for a dress at a distance, with the hood down. His gleaming blue hair was crafted- yes, crafted- into an unflattering diamond shape, but his face was pretty enough, with dazzling blue eyes and a bemused looking smile that one might gather was plastered pretty consistently to his face. On each of his hands was a number of rings, many of them studded with white and blue diamonds themselves, and his nails were painted a bright blue to match his hair. Lastly, he wore a sort of mechanical eyepiece, now fitted over one ear, which had a telescoping lens.

Despite all of the performance art he'd apparently been gifted so far in the name of negotiations, his room was very, very bare, with nothing at all but a comfortable chair and a small desk, upon which an array of diamond-like data pieces had been situated. Even once they entered, he didn't seem to look up from his work. It was unknown whether he expected them to introduce themselves first in some way, or possibly just knock on the glass. Judging by the sound of his telescoping lens whirring in the other room, it was very possible to hear him despite the glass; presumably, he would hear them just as well.

"Ah... Marvelous. This one is easily 98 of a 100!" he chuckled in a pleased, silky-smooth voice, evidently a kinder appraiser of data fragments than he was people. He set that one down, then moved on to the next at his table.
As Pirouette listened, one finger taped thoughtfully against her other hand, posed at her waist. Her expression drew into a more distinct frown. As much as disappearance had countered the idea of NightMan and AppraisalMan being the same person, the idea that NightMan might be unreachable due to some legitimate trouble was something that needed to be considered. She glanced towards HoundMan and offered him a brief smile.

“It may not be that the two are one, but it is another line of thought all the same, HoundMan. We must consider that NightMan's... what is the word... you know... that he cannot be contacted, and so on? This. We must consider the possibility that he is a victim here, as well as the possibility that he is... part of the problem.”

As the discussion went on, however, her frown deepened again. If he wasn't formally being detained, that changed matters. She shook her head, dismissing the last part of her previous requests.

“Aie... If he is not actually under arrest here, this makes matters different. If he is under suspicion of Mafia financing, but not enough to formalise an arrest... We have no power to act in this situation. If he is 'free', then the rules about keeping him here, and not letting him leave the room – they are meaningless, no?” She drew a breath and let it out again slowly, moving her attention between the other two as she continued.

“He is here under suspicion. His is not the place to dictate the terms. Either he wishes to co-operate, or he does not. He has been asked politely. Now he is obstructing; playing coy, you know, about whether he has anything of import or not, and wasting department resources. the solution here is very straight forward. He ought to be formally arrested and charged with obstruction at the very least. This, then, gives the freedom to conduct a proper interrogation.” A note of force had crept into her voice, along with a stern set of her shoulder and a bristling of her wings. She calmed herself again a moment later.

“I am sure, at this point, you will tell me why this has not been done, and it will be a legitimate reason, yes?” She suppressed the urge to sigh. “Regardless... whatever protections he has, it does not afford him the right to intrude upon any of our own rights of person, you know. He may speak rudely if he wishes; it will not help his situation, but he may. Beyond this, nothing grants him any right to intrude further.” She shook her head, then glanced across to HoundMan.

“We will talk more about our options in a moment. First, I must see this man for myself. If you would, please, HonundMan, I would prefer if you stayed in uniform while you accompany me. It will only take a minute or two. We can discuss other... costumes... later.” She stepped across to the visitation door and settled herself. The hat, she left on the table, but she carefully re-straightened the rest of her police uniform and brushed it down, taking an extra moment to find her personal balance again. Poise was what mattered. “HoundMan, when we enter, please wait by the door. For now, watch and pay attention, yes? To everything you can; I know you are perceptive, no? But, just for this visit, please do not respond to him if he should speak. I would ask, only as long as we are in the room this particular time, respond only to me, and only when I address you, yes? I do apologise for this, but, it is about impressions, you know?” She shrugged her shoulders slightly and gave him a reassuring smile. Somewhere in the back of her mind, the urge to pat him on the head popped up instead and she shooed it away.

As she entered the room, Pirouette strode to the centre of it, standing just in front of the glass with a measured stride. She ignored the unprofessional scattering of clothes and props, and instead trained her eyes solely on the man on the other side of the glass, keeping her features smooth, calm and business-like. He pose was sharp, wings arching slowly with her breath, but no other movement betraying her as she let her eyes travel slowly over the navi in the other room, taking in his details. She wasn't expecting him to speak up, but that didn't matter this time. Instead, she spent another thirty seconds standing in silence, letting her blue gaze bore over him.

At the end of the slow count in he head, she made small gesture with on hand, producing her black notebook, and pulled her long, black writing quill from the air with the other. Silently, she began to write in the notebook, completing five short lines of notes before dismissing her quill and snapping the book shut again.

“This is enough. I am not satisfied with this, but it will suffice.” On the off chance that AppraisalMan had deigned to speak up, even to offer an unflattering number, Pirouette ignored it and didn't let any sign that she'd even heard him register on her features. Instead, she turned on her heel and strode back towards the door.

“That is all I need for now, HoundMan. Thank you. We may leave.” As she stepped from the room, she paused and cast an eye over the rest of her own side of the room. “We will get this room cleaned up. It is a disgrace.” She left and saw that the door was closed again properly before relaxing a little bit. With a brief nod to Disappearance, she returned to the table and sat, gesturing for her companions to join her.

“So, to business, yes?” Pirouette folded her hands on the table, crossing her legs where she sat with on chair turned sideways, as was her habit. “My first question, Officer Disappearance... It was mentioned that, initially, there was a time where you were concerned for your own safety, no? Tell me about this. Also, I would know, all-day visits for weeks have been mentioned. How often do you visit him, and how long between do you leave him be without attention?” She glanced between the two, then raised an eyebrow to HoundMan. "If there was anything unusual about how he responded then, or any other thoughts, I would be intrigued to hear this too, yes?"
HoundMan's helmet-ears perked up; apparently, the thought that something might have happened to NightMan physically (or as well as "physically" applied to navis) put him on alert. "A-roof! I hadn't thought about it, but it could be that NightMan is being held hostage or something!" he barked, putting words to the new fear. "Though... I thought he was a pretty strong navi..."

"It can happen to even the strong ones. You remember that story about how Officer Bayonet was once coerced by the power of the NetMafia operative, Piper?" Disappearance asked. "We can't rule it out."

"Oh, right... I was there for part of that! Aroo," HoundMan added. He sounded strangely excited by the memory, then dropped his tail-piece when he realized he probably shouldn't be. "Yeah, that's not really important right now..." He listened to Pirouette further, then cupped his chin with one hand. "Yes, the rules about keeping him here and not letting him leave are just NightMan's instructions. They're not protocol and they're also not something we can enforce- unless you see NightMan's means of keeping the guy happy as enforcing it."

Disappearance shook her head at Pirouette's next suggestion, however. "That would be convenient, but I doubt it's so simple. This is no obstruction of justice. After all, we are acting, as far as anyone could tell, on nothing more than suspicion. His refusal to confirm or deny is annoying, but the situation is this: he has basically been accepting our extended invite to come in for questioning. He has not officially impeded justice in any legal way," she resolved. "He would probably say he's spent several months now entertaining our delusions, which began on an entirely unsubstantiated suspicion by NightMan. Look at it this way: if we had no burden of evidence to bring someone in and could arrest them just for an officer's stated suspicion, that would open the field for corrupt practices on our part, wouldn't it? If he said no, he could go on his way... if he said yes and confessed, we could slap the cuffs on him. But if he says nothing, we're essentially at base 0: we have no evidence and it's all on us for holding him this long. All of this is a result of NightMan's unusual instructions to continue this angle indefinitely."

"He hasn't been helpful, though, or cooperative! It'd all be a lot easier if we can arrest him," HoundMan murmured with a slight growl in his voice.

"We can certainly try. But there's no going back if we exercise that option. You can look at it this way: NightMan seemed to anticipate that the recommended method would give AppraisalMan no reason to 'fight back' or try to break the scenario. If we stray from that route and try to put him in Virtucuffs, then we've broken the loop, for better or for worse. We must be absolutely certain we're ready for the consequence of AppraisalMan's reaction," Disappearance explained, her voice calm and even behind her mask. "You're right that he has no right to do any of this, but we gave him that right when NightMan issued this unusual means of interrogation. And, if you believe NightMan, all of this was to ensure that he played ball."

"This is like a game of ball where the master never throws the ball!" HoundMan exclaimed, putting it in a strangely dog-based format. At any rate, HoundMan nodded along with the plan to stay in uniform and watched with interest as Pirouette primmed her own up. "Don't worry, Pirouette, ma'am! I can be very still and look like the perfect watchdog, aroo!" It would probably work better if the guy hadn't already realized how friendly (and gullible) HoundMan was, but maybe he'd still fall for the idea that Pirouette's arrival had whipped him into shape. At the very least, the role would stop HoundMan for falling for more of the guy's traps.

Even so, HoundMan had a hard time with the awkward silence, as the two entered together and both parties remained in near silence for thirty minutes, save for AppraisalMan's praising comments for the data fragments he was inspecting, clear because the appraisals were so much higher than he'd apparently give to people.

At Pirouette's voice, he did indeed look up from his work, giving an even more irritating smile than the one he used when performing his work. His lens scoped out towards Pirouette, but he remained silent, even as she dismissed both herself and HoundMan.

The other officer gave a snappy salute, doing his best to hide the confusion on his face, then left. Disappearance was probably as confused as HoundMan, but her mask hid her expression as the three reconvened at the table at the center of the room. "Oh... Yes, I was concerned for my safety, only because of the nature of the motivations I'd begun to give him. I was [REDACTED] close to [REDACTED] [REDACTED]-"

"The mask, ma'am," HoundMan reminded her in a quick, pitying bark.

Frowning, she removed it again, then set it on the desk and crossed her hands. "It was just at the point that I began to do provocative things. I was... well... you can imagine. Sliding on a stripper pole, showing most of my skin, even giving him teases and taunts- for the sake of improving his appraisal- implying he should do this or that. Physical things. So I thought that eventually he might finally take me up on one of them, at which point I wanted HoundMan to intervene. I'm not a particularly powerful navi and I figured HoundMan's presence would stop AppraisalMan from having his way with me."

"Aroo. Ironically, I ended up getting pulled into pleasing him as well," HoundMan added in a dull tone.

"Well, regardless... I saw some improvement in my appraisal when I started to goad him on, but that became a plateau, as you can imagine." She watched her mask as the table, as if wanting to put it back on, as she continued to answer questions. "I've tried it all ways. At first, I only gave him normal hours- that is, I'd schedule an appointment a day, sometimes lasting up to four or five straight hours at longest. After nearly two weeks of this, I became obsessive. I extended the hours, until finally, I was trying nearly around the clock all day. Of course, a day or two, I tried not meeting him at all, waiting outside instead, but it didn't seem to make a difference. As for his behavior... Besides appraising things... I've never seen this bastard do anything else," she grumbled, clenching her hands together harder on the table. The mask was probably the only thing that had prevented her from cursing AppraisalMan all the time earlier.

"You'd think if he's getting excited about the raunchy stuff he'd be... arooo... you know. Wanting to satisfy himself," HoundMan murmured. "But no, he never has. I guess technically, since there's no cameras in here and we don't have a window, he could be leaving during those short periods where Disappearance isn't with him?"

"No, that isn't possible. We don't have recording or viewing devices, but we can monitor jack-ins, jack-outs. He hasn't done either, since he arrived. It's a good thing he doesn't actually seemed to be programmed in such a way that makes him stink. We can also tell when communications are opened with his operator... oddly, there haven't been any of those either. At times, he does have one of his assistants come in, who he refers to only as "lady," and she delivers his next inspections while picking up the others and receiving instructions on sales prices and that sort of thing. We have attempted to question her as well, but she doesn't appear to be capable of speech, so we treated it as a dead end."

"We've inspected his business personally, of course, aroo," HoundMan picked up. "His company in NetVegas is called Values. There's an office and warehouse there, but most of the business actually takes place over trading boards and such. Values deals in those data fragments. If there's any obvious link to Mafia financing, we couldn't find it with our personal investigation. It'd help if NightMan told us more..." he sighed, his voice sounding a bit like a dog's whimper as he addressed the hopeless situation. "There's just one assistant working there now, the speechless one. They gave us the tour but everything looks on the up-and-up. I will say, they seem to be just raking it in, in terms of cash! Kinda surprising there's only two employees."

"The other employee, the 'Lady', dressed all in a black cloak so we've never really gotten a good look at her. Between that and saying nothing, she's a little mysterious," Disappearance pointed out. "I feel a little sorry for her... With him being so wealthy and so perverse... I wonder if he puts her through the same thing."

"No way! She'd have quit if it was like that, arooo!" HoundMan responded, sounding incredulous at the idea that anyone could willingly put themselves through dealing with AppraisalMan, even if they were handsomely paid for it. "It takes a sense of justice to tolerate this guy!"

"Or some very specific instructions," Disappearance sighed, running her finger along the groove inside her mask to rock it idly back and forth upon the table. "What do you think, Pirouette? Where would you like to investigate next? If you don't want to try playing his game, we could go speak to Bank... we could check Values again if you think it might help... or we could continue to confer here."

"I wish we could speak to NightMan, even if just to confirm he's safe, but there's no way to do it. His out of office is still on. His office is here at the HQ, technically... if you wanna check if he's hiding under his desk?" HoundMan asked; coming from anyone but the honest-to-a-fault HoundMan, it might sound like a joke.
As she sat with her colleagues, Pirouette prodded at the numerous oddities that were unacceptable in her mind. It wasn't just the bigger picture elements that were problematic. Other things also weren't quite adding up. Internally, the ballerina wondered if they ever would... but then, it would not be a case if they did, so she would just need to breathe deep and push on through.

“I think I should like to speak with officer Bank next. I must have more of this picture if I am to make the right decision about the resolution, no? I will tell this to you, Disappearance, and, you know, there is a decent chance I will tell bank as well... But my job in this matter is not to determine whether someone is or is not a Mafia financier, you know. My job, today, and ending by today, is to resolve this issue which is being a drain on police time and resources with no end in sight. I can do this very easily, yes? It is all that is required of me, and it can be done in less than a minute.” She paused and drew a breath, letting it out again slowly and ruffling her wings.

“But, I do wish to be sure I have as many pieces of the puzzle in place before I do so, yes? I wish to do this, not because it may help in rooting out a mafia bank roll... I wish to do this because this mess has occurred for a reason, you know, and if I can find out who at the root of it and why, then and only then will I feel as though I have done my duty. If the curtain is called, and it is viewed as untimely, you will not be reprimanded, of course... I would be acting as I see fit, and responsibility for those decisions, it would fall on me alone, yes? So. You understand my position in this, no? Let us begin again... AppraisalMan is not, for the time at least, going anywhere, you know.”

Pirouette stood and took a few steps to walk around the room, stretching her wings out as she did. As much as she was used to wearing a leotard and a tutu, which really disguised very little, now that she was wearing a formal skirt she was still quite aware of how short it felt, especially while she was seated.

“From the beginning. Disappearance, HoundMan, you say there is no obstruction of justice here? Aei... this, moi tovarishchi, this is why the Net Police is thought of as a laughing stock by so many of the civilian people out there. It would benefit you both to be aware, that there most certainly is obstruction of justice occurring here. It is quite the textbook definition. Deliberately wasting police time and resources by way of a refusal to testify or present evidence. It is this very thing, yes? And it is very much an offence. It is grounds for an arrest and a hearing, at minimum, if officers decide to pursue it, you know.” She passed her eyes back and forth between them; her expression wasn't on of judgement or anger, and her tone wasn't reprimanding or scolding either them. Rather, it was the clear tone of someone frustrated by the state of things, without wanting to blame either of the people in front of her. She shook her head and continued, walking slowly about the room as she did.

“It is not normally the place of Internal Affairs, it is true... this is how this situation ought properly to have gone. A navigator was suspected of mafia ties, yes? Either there was evidence enough to warrant arrest, seizure and interrogation, you know, investigation of assets and so on, and a hearing and trial... or there is not enough evidence for this, yes? If there is not, the suspect can be brought in for questioning. If they comply, they give their testimony and evidence. If they do not, then that is not compliance. If they do not comply, they can be detained without arrest for a short length of time, and interrogated to as a suspect. If enough evidence is obtained, an arrest can be made. If not, then after that time, the suspect is released, and cannot be so detained again unless further evidence is uncovered, yes? This is not corruption – it is the natural pursuit of fair justice... and it should have been done already. Long past.” She paused, putting finger tips to her temples.

“More concerning is the way it fits together. If someone is inciting or compelling another person to withhold testimony or evidence, either through threat of negative consequences, or promise of something favourable, that, too is obstruction of justice. So, either AppraisalMan is simply being wilfully belligerent, yes? Or, he is doing so at the request or desire of someone else. The latter, you know, it seems the more likely, since AppraisalMan seems to be quite well aware of the game he is playing and the fact that, until now, he has been allowed to play it.”

Somewhere in her other thoughts a few different pieces snagged together and she returned to the table, and pulled out her notebook, sketching a couple of short bullet points one beneath the other in quick succession. She looked up after writing several of them and re-reading.

“It would be the duty of Investigations to find out who was doing this, perhaps. It would only be the job of Internal Affairs to find out who is responsible, if it is someone within our own ranks. So, here we are.” She looked down at her notes again, then back up, mostly focusing on Disappearance this time.

“Yes. Another angle then. Consider that you, Disappearance, were called in for this. I spoke before about why, but let us suppose a different reason. AppraisalMan is never going to give a full appraisal. He will never talk freely, but he is happy to remain here in this 'loop' as you put it. And you were called in. Not Investigations – Internal Affairs. And you have been given as much time as you need, yes? So... what is the internal issue that this situation is presenting us to solve – was presented to you to solve, weeks ago? What truth has not been seen? What are we really here for?” She put her fingers together, palms pressed as she looked at her own fingertips with a thoughtful expression. “What, that we cannot be told directly? I do wonder, yes?” She nodded to herself and stood again.

“I must see more. May we speak with Bank?” Her mind made up, Pirouette handed the reigns back to Disappearance to take the lead again, though as she waited for HoundMan and disappearance to be ready to go, if indeed they would be going somewhere, another thought made her muse aloud.

“I wonder also... If AppraisalMan will not tell you by what measures he is appraising, and what he measures and collates to arrive at his score for people... how is it that you came to decide that... stripping and sexual suggestion were something to try? From where did this perverse idea come?” She thought about it in the back of her mind; many odd and unusual things went on behind the closed and private doors of interview rooms. Operatives and officers could and often would go to unusual lengths to secure good cooperation when necessary, and, if she were honest, if putting on a private show was all it took to secure cooperation from a reluctant witness, or to convince a black coat to turn informant, then there was no harm in that, just by itself... as long as the results were achieved and it was worthwhile... it was private and nobody asked too much about it, because the embarrassing details were no-one else's business, usually... but it was still a fact that such things were done when necessary, by those officers comfortable to do so.... but she did wonder how Disappearance had arrived at that kind of behaviour in the first place, if AppraisalMan wasn't telling her to do it.
The slight frown of Disappearance's unmasked face made it clear that she was upset with the suggestion that this scenario might end without confirming whether the pest she'd been dealing with actually had mafia ties. HoundMan's face stayed the same; it was likely that to him, the idea of all of them abandoning this fruitless quest to get back to regular work sounded like a sweetheart of a deal. Disappearance might like that too... but it would be hard for her to live with the fact that all of this really had been a waste. There was probably a part of her that really hoped that she and Pirouette and she together could solve the mission she'd devoted so much clearly misspent time to.

She closed her negative-sign eyes again and responded quickly. "No, he has misspent no resources. We're the ones that asked him here. NightMan is the one who gave me the stupid instructions and I'm the one who's stupidly following them. If at some point I had said: I need a yes or no answer or you will be found in obstruction of justice and arrested and he continued to play coy, then yes, he would be. Instead, I did as NightMan said: I invited him in and metaphorically asked 'please?' over and over again, because I was specifically ordered not to escalate the situation," Disappearance responded looking pained. "I've clearly been disrespected, or 'bullied,' but that is not a punishable offense. If we move to arrest him for accepting a gift that was freely given to him many times over, I cannot call that a fair carriage of justice."

"But he's arooooo a huge jerk, anyway! There's no problem with imprisoning a guy like that! Pirouette's pretty smart so I gotta trust her on this... But even if I didn't, we're the police! Isn't it our job to put away people like that?" HoundMan asked, offering a more emotional based appeal.

"I agree that I want him arrested, at this point, whether he's a mafia financier or just a lucky jerk., and yet.." Disappearance continued, pausing to hear Pirouette out the rest of the way. "I'm not calling you corrupt, Pirouette. It's very understandable that Internal Affairs wants to wrap this up and wishes that the various missteps along the way had not been made. It's also true that this is exactly the sort of situation that besmirches the good name of the NetPolice. However... I think that a laboriously careful carriage of justice is also vital to our role as NetPolice. That is: we must be consistent to the law, even when it hurts to do so. That said, it's also a very good lesson in questioning the orders of your superiors..."

"True," HoundMan nodded along. It was hard for anyone to argue that point. "Really, secrets in the NetPolice always seem to end badly. And there's also always a lot of them," he mused. HoundMan was a person who valued honesty without a deceitful bone in his body nor his food-bowl, that much was obvious. The theme of the day- classified information- remained consistent. It made one wonder who, if anyone, was at the top was abusing the chain of command and the authority necessary to consider information classified. It also made one wonder, more directly, what could possibly have made NightMan give such inane directions. "What can we not be told directly? Arooo... If only they'd just tell us everything directly."

Pirouette expressed next, again, that she wanted to talk to Bank, who was Disappearance's superior. "Hm. Yes, let's relocate to her office," Disappearance suggested. Even here, the obvious answer was to call Bank to all of them, but Disappearance didn't seem to be willing to rock the chain of command in that way. Pirouette continued to speak as Disappearance gathered up folders that she apparently considered critical, in case Bank had questions herself. She'd yet to put her mask on, which made a slight flush on her face evident. "O-Oh, er... After I ran through various ideas, I thought back to the same thing you did: why I was chosen for this task? I decided that NightMan had reached across departments for me, for my appearance, and that AppraisalMan must have a taste for such things. I tried a few simple measures: coming in with a shorter skirt, bending over for things, sitting in a position that threatened to show up my skirt... and I noticed a marked improvement from those things. F-From there, I mostly used my own knowledge and also research to come up with things..." She placed her mask back upon her face, eager to get back to redacting things.

"I suggested a thing or two after I saw the trouble she was having!" HoundMan added, giving a salute and looking as though he expected to be praised for continuing to feed the awful machine that was this entrapment.

The movement up to Banks' office from there was a bit uncomfortable, with Pirouette free to speculate on the embarrassing situation.

----------

Banks' office was, frankly, a bit gaudy, but she might be doing the best she could with the theme she'd been given... or she might just really love money. The officer was seated at what looked a bit amusingly like a teller's desk, though without glass separating it, and her nameplate on her desk completed the appearance. There was even a pen chained to a desk, like she was afraid someone would walk away with it. Everything in the room was either chained down or otherwise too heavy for the average person to move. The carpet, neat and firm, was green with yellow lines drawn out at the edges. The furniture was mostly hard-wood, but very well polished. Everything in the office seemed immaculately maintained... and stingily guarded.

Would such a person really loan out one of their officers so easily and let them waste time for weeks on end? It seemed contradictory.

The woman herself was seated behind that long desk, working not on papers, but on a viewscreen, using not the pen, but instead her fingers, with practiced speed. She was dressed in a flat-topped black helmet, very shiny accompany armor, and black sunglasses attached to said helmet. Notably, the shoulders of the armor, as well as the fingers and various other parts, opened up to reveal what looked like solid gold where just plating would do. It seemed like it must be immensely heavy, but it wasn't bothering her. Even her emblem contained a large dollar sign. Could someone really be so obsessed with money as she appeared to be? With such armor on, it was hard to tell if she could have fulfilled a similar role to Disappearance, but her pale skin and red lips looked womanly enough.

The woman looked up from her work, noting Disappearance's rare appearance, and she made a confused expression. "Who is this with you?" she asked impatiently, giving little else in way of greeting.

"This is Officer Pirouette, from Internal Affairs. She's here to assist with the AppraisalMan situation... no, more accurately, to end the misallocation of resources there," Disappearance began.

There was a slight twitch in one of the woman's upper cheeks, as if that fact had made her wince for whatever reason. It was very likely that she just couldn't stand the idea that someone else had gotten involved with the farcical situation, but whatever the case, the twitch only lasted a moment. "Hmph. It is certainly that. I can hardly imagine what NightMan is thinking," Bank grumbled, continuing to put her digital fingerprints on certain pages and swiping away others across her desk. "Well? Please tell me you've thought up something better than grinding a pole for AppraisalMan."

"REDACTED," a voice reverberated from her subordinate's mask.

"Excuse me?"

"REDACTED," the woman fired back again in a mechanical voice.

Bank put on a highly irritable frown, then crossed her hands on her desk and stopped attending her documents. "We've wasted enough time on a case without evidence. I think at this stage we have two options: we can either arrest AppraisalMan and he'll lawyer up with the finest suits money can buy, or we can just drop the damn thing and let him go," she offered. It seemed she was of a mind that the arrest would go through without public or internal scrutiny, but perhaps due to her money-minded nature, she immediately began worrying about how much AppraisalMan could actually do to fight back with all that money. "What do you say, Officer Pirouette? My vote is for just releasing the bastard. We'll free AppraisalMan and have our Investigations conduct a real investigation and you know we'll turn up something... The guy's so stinking rich it makes me..."

"Kinda jealous?" HoundMan asked, tilting his head innocently.

Bank really seemed to bristle at that one. "Sick to my stomach. You don't get that rich without getting dirty," she growled in response. It was becoming clear that whether Bank was trustworthy or not, she was not the kind of person who'd be any fun to have as a superior. "But yes. If NightMan comes back on anyone for disobeying him- which he can't, considering his long, unexplained vacation- then I'll happily lay out what an ass he's been for anyone who wants to listen. He's the only one who's going to take the fall for any of this," she explained, very ready to throw the guy under the bus for the sake of wrapping this up. That might be considered convenient or might be considered very presumptuous, considering she hadn't been one of those with their work flow disrupted to this point.
The trouble with the net police, Pirouette decided, was that the people who would be responsible with exercising their authority weren't prepared to do so, and the ones who were not were all to eager to. She could tell that disappearance would not be swayed for the time being, and let the matter rest; to her own mind it was simple enough; the navi had been asked to testify. He had refused to do so. Politeness or otherwise, there was obstruction here – the fact that Disappearance was permitting it to continue, based on other orders or otherwise, didn't change the fact. The only question was whether the obstruction began and ended with AppraisalMan, which seemed increasingly unlikely, or whether the actual actionable offence was stemming from someone else offering him incentive to obstruct.

The thought furrowed her brow as Disappearance and HoundMan led the way towards bank's office. that was a problem in itself, since, legally, he'd be able to argue that disappearance herself was giving him incentive to obstruct, with her games. That would obfuscate whoever it was that was really giving him the incentive – whoever had communicated to him that he could play this game to his heart's content, as he clearly seemed to know. Beyond that, she needed to understand what this mystery manipulator was getting out of it. Besides, presumably... titillation material...

To HoundMan, Pirouette did turn her eyes and smooth her features, answering his question quietly alongside Disappearance's own response.

“It is tempting, yes, to wish to act upon the ones who we feel are behaving poorly, or who are selfish, or irritating, HoundMan, but we must always do our best to be just, yes? There is no law amongst navis that stops them being selfish or rude... Good people, as you and I, we are not, you know, because it is polite and proper... but this does not mean we can use our power to stop people from simply being mean or rude, not if they do not transgress true laws. We can, however, seek to protect others from such poor behaviour, when it occurs, yes? And sometimes this will be the best thing we can do...” She spoke quietly as they walked, trying not to let the gentle coaching interfere with anything more presently important.

“As for what... My thought currently is that Internal Affairs was pulled in here because there is suspicion of improper dealings and behaviour from one of our own, you know, and that this case... it would give Internal Affairs Officers a perfect opportunity to see it and expose it, yes? Without giving wind to the one under suspicion.” She rolled her shoulders. “The alternative... aie... that NightMan is simply a pervert who wishes to use these strange orders to put other officers in compromising positions... this is distasteful to contemplate.”

As Disappearance explained how she happened upon AppraisalMan's rules, Pirouette had to sigh and nod. It was perfectly sensible behaviour in such a situation, all things considered, and she could not fault the woman for making the observation and connecting that set of dots, even if it had led to the current situation.

“Well, if it is any consolation, Officer Disappearance, I think it is... quite brave of you, yes, to go as far as you have to pursue his co-operation in peace. I fear, however, that you might well offer yourself to him fully and still not receive a perfect score unless you actually did so.” She cleared her throat, her cheeks pinking slightly as she grazed the awkward topic, flicking her eyes to HoundMan briefly before returning them to her female companion. “Which, you know, it must be said, no-one ever has the right to ask anyone else to do as a part of fulfilling our duty, no?” A few more awkward moments passed before Pirouette spoke again.

“And... aie... I suppose, ah, if there was a legitimate certainty of getting information we needed, you know... I would not be against some measure of, you know... performance and show. It is only assuming a role, after all, yes? This is something, as a ballerina, I do most every day, no?” Dressing in revealing or titillating costumes and dancing in alluring or provocative ways had never bothered Pirouette, not when it was part of a performance role, but for some reason ,the thought of dipping into that kind of behaviour in this circumstance was making her more nervous and she sought her inner poise while trying not to make too much eye contact with either of her companions. Especially HoundMan. She looked ahead for the rest of the journey.

Pirouette did her best not to make immediate judgements upon the more superior officer as she was led into Bank's office. As with other officers she had seen, she at least showed an inclination to some kind of formal display dress and uniform; if only it bore clearer net police attachment. At the snapped greeting, Pirouette inclined her head and gave a graceful, if reserved salute, before extending her hand to shake while Disappearance introduced her. The initial explanation led to a small reaction, which Pirouette was almost relieved to put down to the idea that the waste of time and of personnel resources was every bit as galling to Bank as it ought to be, though she didn't immediately write off other possibilities. when she was addressed, Pirouette stretched and settled her wings before taking a breath to speak.

“Regardless of anything else, Officer Bank, I do plan to have this issue resolved within the space of two hours, if not sooner, you know.” She paused, clasping her hands neatly behind her back as she gave her intentions.

“If I may, however, and with respect, yes, I would like to ask you a few questions. To assist with my understanding to the finer points, you know. I am reviewing what is here, and I wish to quickly gather as much as I may before rendering my own recommendation, or, of course, taking action, no?”

“As I have come to know... NightMan has involved Internal Affairs in this case, which should have otherwise been handled by Investigations, no? How did this communication from him arrive, and to whom was it made, if I may? I understand, you know, he has been absent and without any word for weeks now, yes?” She retrieved her notebook and began to take notes quickly either based on Bank's answer, or based on her response otherwise. “Do you have any idea why he specifically called for IA in this matter? Or for that matter, why he sought Officer Disappearance specifically?”

After a moment she nodded to herself and let her wings rise and fall slowly as she thought about the matter. The only people she could rule out from active suspicion for the debacle, at the moment, were Disappearance and HoundMan. The possibility remained that NightMan himself was either a victim or otherwise compromised, but he was equally suspicious if not. Bank herself was not above suspicion either, especially if NightMan had called to involve IA based on a suspicion of internal misconduct. Of course, it could also have been as simple as him requesting Disappearance and Bank because of their background in accounting and book-keeping, and he expected them to be able to more accurately ask the right questions in this particular case.

“I would also like to know, if you are aware, exactly what evidence or suspicion AppraisalMan was brought in on in the first place. There is not enough evidence for a clean arrest, but, there must be some level of suspicion and reasoning behind this, no?” She was half suspecting that the answer to that question would be woefully lacking, but pressed on with it anyway. Eventually she sighed.

“Officer Bank, what I should like to do right now, is to detain him... I understand he has not been formally detained at any point, yes? And he is not under arrest either, no? He is here simply under invitation and can leave whenever he wishes, this is correct, yes? So. I would like to detain him. I would not put him under arrest; we have no cause or grounds yet. There will be no lawyers and no calls out, and also infringement of rights to do so... for a short while. As I understand we may detain him formally for no more than twenty-four hours, for questioning and without charges... after which time, he must either be released, or arrested with charges, and he may not be detained so again unless new evidence is uncovered. This is my understanding of our limits for a case like this, no? He has been busy the entire time he has been here and does not stop, you know. Cut him off from his business and from all communication with it for twenty-four hours and he will talk simply out of need to get back to it. I would detain this 'Lady' as well, at the same time, separately, but allow him to know she is also being detained for questioning. Time is money to a man like that, and that time away from doing diligence to his business is what we may legally dock him for his belligerence so far, if my understanding is correct.” Pirouette shook her head, smoothing her features.

“It is a step that once done, it is done, you know. If he gives up nothing in that time, and there is no other evidence brought to light, then it is our duty as defenders of just and fair practice, to release him. If NightMan were to complain that his orders were not followed, then it might be suggested that his orders were followed for an excessive amount of time, until a new course was decided based, you know, on his own dereliction of duty. It might be suggested, too, that he do his own duty and acquire actual evidence before pursuing a suspect in this manner, no?” She let her suggestion float for a moment then drew a longer breath and pinched at the bridge of her nose for a moment.

“This is what I should like to do right now, yes?” Her tone emphasises the word 'like', making it clear that she wasn't punishing for that course of action immediately. “However, there is another consideration. While I wish for mafia sympathisers to be brought to justice, my duty... it is to Internal Affairs, you know. I believe there is a chance worth investigating that AppraisalMan may be able to tell us something of use that does not directly relate to his supposed mafia ties, and I would like an opportunity to find out if this is true, before any irreversible action is taken, if I may have that time first, yes?” As she made her report and pitch, the ballerina-turned investigator watched Bank's reactions to the different parts of her suggestions. If she pounced at some things and resisted others, that would be telling, potentially.
HoundMan and Disappearance mostly ended up nodding along with Pirouette's insights as they made their way to Bank's office. It might occur to Pirouette that both of the two supporting officers were very out of their depth, with Disappearance being more used to financial data and HoundMan having displayed judgment issues in the past. It was easy to imagine both of them wanted to get past the situation as soon as possible. HoundMan's ear-like armor vents perked up when Pirouette mentioned participating in the appraisals, but the guy had calmed down by the time everyone got to the office.

----------------

"Two hours? I like it already," Bank agreed, looking up to one wall where an antique analog clock was ticking. She was prepared to stay quiet and listen, but Pirouette had some questions right out the gate. "NightMan reached out to us, always via messages rather than in person. I do understand that, of course; I rarely make trips out in person myself. Just because we're navis doesn't mean we have to tromp all around the net all the time," she responded, seeming to roll her eyes behind her sunglasses. "But I understand where you're going with this. It's quite true that even I have not seen him in person for quite some time. The fact that he was, for the most part, still communicating by messages seemed to belay any suspicion he'd come to harm. Though, even those have not come as of late."

"I do not know why he saw fit to take one of my direct reports for this. Disappearance is a model officer, but her specialty is much the same as mine: keeping the trains running in the NetPolice, that is. The occasional background investigation into a person's finances, too. When he asked for her, I assumed that it was in that capacity, but I was not loathe to loan her service regardless. You've probably been told this before, but NightMan is both a long-tenured member in the police and also a man who deals in a lot of sensitive topics. I know, it sounds like I'm defending him- I certainly wouldn't after this fiasco- but at the time, I suspected nothing untoward about his desire to use her," Bank grumbled, looking over to Disappearance. "You may also wonder why I didn't pull Disappearance off of it myself. Call me too obsessed with chain of command," she answered with either crass indifference or perhaps evasiveness. "And we were both eager to assist, in the early days. A little break from spreadsheets to get into the weeds, a little excitement, perhaps pushed her on to stay in that position longer than she should have. I understand that completely."

"Respectfully, ma'am, that wasn't even a part of it," Disappearance protested, removing her mask again to speak without filtering. "It was simply dedication to the mission to which I was assigned. I did not find it pleasurable or a flight of fancy."

"Pardon, that was all speculation on my part. The truth is, how this persisted as long as it has is difficult to explain," Bank conceded, her face showing the aggravation she felt at some perceived failing of her underling. She returned to answering Pirouette. "I wish I had whatever evidence NightMan thought was worth following up on. He said it was of a highly sensitive nature and never shared anything useful with me," she growled, seeming as if a curse was escaping her lips every time she spoke his name now. "Of course, it wasn't much of a stretch to believe him. AppraisalMan is clearly guilty of something, it's just hard to say if it's financing the Mafia. I can only imagine how juiced that man's financial intake must be... probably has money laundering schemes for his money laundering schemes. I understand that NightMan needs to keep things on the hush for his work, but I think in this case, he was just being overly paranoid. Such suspicion for one's fellow officers is unbecoming. I'd imagine he was jumping at shadows."

At the next approach, she leaned back in her chair slightly, her expression unreadable, besides just her general, impatient frown. "Yes, we are within our rights to hold him that time. Still, I will say, the two hours sounds much more appetizing than the twenty-four. Get it done in two," she insisted. It was hard to tell if she was just thoroughly against further time-wasting or if she somehow suspected they'd end up with even more egg on their face if a fruitless twenty-four hours were spent detaining the man. "We'll have that Lady detained as well in the next room over. Unfortunately, you won't be able to access a water cooler in that waiting room, so you'll want to make interviews snappy..." she remarked snidely, then shook her head irritably, showing that she wasn't one to laugh at jokes, even her own.

The last part seemed to make her calm down, somehow. Her face held a bit of a blank frown and she brought up both hands, rolling them almost indifferently. "Oh, please, by all means. If you he confesses to some murder or wants to cough up details on some cold case, or if he comes clean on tax fraud- that one especially- by all means, include that in your report. Just keep focus," she insisted. "Two hours, Officer Pirouette. Let's try for two hours. By the time you've arrived back in the cells, you'll find that he's received the good news and his Lady is detained, again, the next cell over. I'll leave whether to inform him of that or not to your digression."

Pirouette would have a bit more time to request any extra odds or ends she needed, or drill Bank for more details. However, if she went too long, Bank would blatantly point her golden-gloved finger to the clock on the wall and mouth out "two hours."

((Feel free to move back to the holding cells and assume the Lady was detained as stated))
Pirouette nodded and jotted flowing, cursive notes in her notebook while she listened. Most of Bank's answers backed up the other information she'd been given. Claiming obsession with chain of command seemed a touch evasive, especially when it was costing the department, and the net police, personnel and time resources to maintain. Part of their duty in IA, amongst other important matters, was to ensure waste like that was kept to a minimum, and to correct those responsible. Was bank responsible? Partially, for allowing this to continue without taking the steps that she herself was suggesting now. What reason might she have to put herself out over such a thing? The ballerina tapped her quill on the edge of her notebook thoughtfully as she listened. Towards the end of their interview she inclined her head towards Bank's other concerns and her pressing on the time frame that she'd suggested.

“Do not worry, Officer Bank. It is... what is the phrase... you know... the truth to come bends a man sooner than the living of it, yes? You understand this, no? Yego ruki ne dokhodyat... Aie, that is...” Her brow creased as she looked for the proper was to describe the much simpler idiom. “That is, he does not have the time to waste being detained. If he knows there is no bluff, and knows how much a day of true isolation will hinder him, he should take the steps he needs to to prevent it, and swiftly if he is a wise business man, yes?” With a last nod and polite salute, Pirouette glanced across to her other companions, then back to Bank.

“Well, I have work to do, it would seem. Thank you for your time, Officer Bank. I hope to have this mess resolved soon.” She stepped back from the desk and made her way out of the room, but stopped in the hall a short way beyond the office door. She looked towards Disappearance and HoundMan.

“Well, we are on the last clock now, yes? Soon the issue will be ended, and the matter closed.” She paused, idly straightening her uniform and settling her wings after she slipped her notebook away and dismissed her quill.

“So. Before we continue, I am afraid I must inspect one more element of this story, yes? It is essential, you know, though it may reveal nothing.” Again she paused, glancing across to HoundMan and pursing her lips.

“Officer HoundMan... It is important, you know, to respect the privacy and boundaries of other officers, as we must have trust in one another and good faith in the honour and duty or those we work alongside. In your department, this is... it is most important, yes? However, in Internal Affairs, a part of our duty is to... the phrase Officer Bank used was peculiar to me, but I take her meaning. We must sometimes investigate other officers of the net police, and ensure that they are behaving as is proper, you know, and that they are not wilfully corrupting our purpose with misuse. The job... it is often not a pleasant or comfortable one, you know, but it must be done, at times, yes? It is not all sinister. Sometimes an officer may be compromised or in danger without those around them knowing, yes? So we must be sure of this too.” With that vague warning offered, the ballerina turned her eyes to Disappearance instead.

“NightMan's Office. This is our next stop before we return to AppraisalMan. A search must be made. It is out duty to Internal Affairs. If he is present, we will have answers from him, no? If he is not, we will need to find out from his office what we may about this case and if he is in danger, or compromised. If you would lead the way, yes?” She gave the other woman a serious nod, but turned her focus back to HoundMan as they walked.

“To be proper, HoundMan, I would ask that you remain outside NightMan's office when we look around, unless he is present, of course. We must do this, but, aie... I would not wish for you to get in trouble just for following us in this action, when it is not something your own department should be doing, you understand, yes?” She wanted to explain more, and would try to is it was necessary, but right now they were on the clock.
"Very good, Officer. I look forward to hearing that our long-time squatter has finally gotten what's coming to him," Bank almost chuckled... almost, as she returned to thumbing through her documents, such as they were. "Please see to your duty."

Outside the gaudy office, HoundMan and Disappearance listened intently to Pirouette as she reminded them that the issue was down to the wire and whatever came, this was probably the end of AppraisalMan's stay. The two looked as though they felt a renewed sense of duty to get to the bottom of it, rather than relief they'd soon be rid of him.

HoundMan tried to follow along, then nodded, hoping to show he comprehended the topic. "Aroo! Yes, ma'am, I have some experience with this! Like the time the criminal, Piper, used that drug to control Bayonet's mind, right? She was- [REDACTED]!"

Before he could get into the details, Disappearance spotted her mask over his face to stop him from talking. "I believe she would rather that be kept private..." Disappearance murmured, though one might speculate that the cat was already out of the bag if a career spreadsheet jockey knew about it. "I guess we can check his office. Hopefully he's in... that would be a piece of good news." It didn't sound like she had any complaints about searching it. More than likely, she suspected that Bank would be understanding of the methods they had been forced to use at this point.

HoundMan was understanding of his role as well. He snapped a salute, then took up guard outside NightMan's door, not seeming as though he questioned the order. It was worth noting that NightMan's office was actually located very close by Bank's just around the corner and a few doors down. It could be reasoned that Bank herself must not leave the office much or interact personally with the other officers, even though she was both ranked and a part of Internal Affairs.

The office was not unlocked and indeed displayed an "Out of Office" notification posted quite literally upon the gateway, with a security cube atop the transporter. Disappearance immediately contacted Bank about acquiring some sort of override, using messaging rather than running back around the corner. She displayed Bank's response so they could all follow along.

Quote (Bank)

"I would call him a nuisance, but I suppose leaving one's office locked while one is out is simply logical. Give me a bit of time and I'll have one of our specialists unlock it. If you'd like, I will additionally have the room searched once it's open. That way, you can focus on your investigation."


It probably wasn't the news Pirouette was hoping for, but at least Bank was willing to get it open for them. The woman seemed punctual... at least when it was her own time on the line, so presumably, she was already making the arrangements she'd just promised. "Where to now?" HoundMan asked.

Disappearance crossed her arms, then looked around the corner they'd just come from. "Officer Pirouette... I was thinking. Perhaps I should open the office up myself? I'm rather used to working around security measures," she inquired, in a voice even more subdued than usual.

"Aroo?" the officer she had named barked in confusion, not seeming to understand the order.

"I was thinking... we don't know who all is involved in the scheme here. It might sound funny coming from me, but if there is any evidence or documentation to be found in that office, it could be heavily edited before it reaches us," she explained. Either she had her suspicions about Bank and her subordinates, or else, maybe she was just high on getting out of her daily routine, like Bank had implied. "What do you think? I believe the situation allows for it... Unusual circumstances and all."
The trio ended up outside NightMan's office before any time had passed at all, it seemed and the remainder of their conversation was held outside the door, rather than in transit. For her own part, Pirouette had already been reaching for a pair of slim hair pins tucked away in her bun, when faced with the locked transport, and grimaced when Bank decided to speak to Bank again directly about the matter, but she nodded and stood back again all the same.

The response was at one time reassuring and another vaguely regretful. She glanced between Disappearance and HoundMan, ruffling her wings briefly as she rolled her shoulders.

“Indeed, this mirrors my own thoughts, Disappearance. Though, you know, as Bank is one we must hope to exonerate if we may, here, I would not have contacted her about the search, no? If you have your own means, please do go ahead... but I would advise that we tell Bank that we have conducted this search ourselves only after we have done so, yes?” She tucked her own pins back and focused on HoundMan instead.

“The plan, it is not changed, Officer HoundMan. In Internal Affairs, at times, we must play the Judas, you know? Aie... that is...” she smiled briefly, searching for a clearer explanation for her companion. “That is, you know, it is our duty to question, and at times, to be suspicious, yes? Bank... she had the power to end this waste of time and resource long ago, and it is supposed she is normally quite... aie, the word... ah, quite fastidious about this. Yet here, she delayed. We must consider this peculiarity as we seek answers. It is because we are suspicious, and do our duty to make sure all are acting well in their own duties, that those from other departments, like yours, do not need to be, and know that they can trust their fellow officer.” She looked back to where, presumably, disappearance was working on getting NightMan's office open to them. “...And at times... this may mean we need to pick a lock or two, you know.” She turned her attention back to what Disappearance was doing, keeping an eye on her other partner in this excursion.

“I think...” she mused to herself in the hallway. “The most interesting thing to discover here would be... It would be if NightMan is indeed inside, but locked in and unable to communicate or leave. That would be unexpected, no?” She shook her head and waited for Disappearance to finish.