NP Holding Cells with Disappearance and HoundMan

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.
"Aw, shoot. That was dumb," Disappearance agreed, placing her mask back upon her face. "I should have cracked the security cube without even asking her. I'm not used to breaking protocol..." As if by way of apology, she prepared a spool of black tape between her hands, stuck it across the cube, then began making motions as though typing upon its surface.

HoundMan looked just as apologetic, though, in his case, it was probably because he was having a hard time putting himself in the right mindset for the mission. "Well, yeah. I definitely wouldn't go along with it if it wasn't the right thing to do. But I get a feeling in my chest that it is the right thing to do!" he explained, snapping another salute. It was hard to tell if his brain and moral compass were both working properly or if he'd just decided that whatever Pirouette came up with was probably the right thing to do. "Don't worry, ma'am! I'll be watching the hall like a guard dog, aroo!" And that he seemed to be.

"Th-That would certainly be a twist," Disappearance agreed in response to Pirouette, sounding vaguely concerned about the prospect. At the same moment, the security cube parted into two halves and dispelled, as if it had been opened legally. Annoyingly, the out of office message stayed hanging in the air space, forcing them to walk right through the hologram to reach the gate and proceed inside.

The inside of NightMan's office was about as ritzy as Bank's, though not nearly as bright. Most of it was as dark as his namesake, with white lights on the floor illuminating a few chairs and a bench for visitors to sit in. A larger area was set aglow by a moon-shaped skylight, casting a circular pool of light near the back of the room. A black desk with a terminal sat there, seeming to be the only other piece of furniture in the room, besides the nearly hidden bookcases encircling it. A few titles could be read, but they sounded like useful, but dry, non-fiction subjects, like criminal psychology and historic reports.

"That terminal is sure to have something interesting. I'll [REDACTEDP it while you search the rest of the room. I guess... he can see in the dark, huh? Pretty convenient for him... not so much for his guests," she mused, as she hurried behind the desk and leaned over the terminal.

Pirouette would find little else in her search... but what little she did find was of extreme interest. First, she discovered what seemed to be some sort of small remote control device, black and discrete, with only one button that went up a few settings. Someone had left it in one of the chairs. Next, she found what appeared to be a black pair of women's panties, adorned with an embroidered, white crescent moon. Either NightMan liked for his hookups to dress to his theme... or perhaps he just had some interesting hobbies of his own. Either way, it seemed very careless for these to be left out, almost to the point of some kind of trap.

"Bingo! These are the [REDACTED] spreadsheets we needed all along. Let's get that Mafia financier evidence," Disappearance cheered, sounding excited for probably the first time since Pirouette had met her. "Let's look at them together..."

Pirouette would find a black and white spreadsheet displayed on the terminal screen. The data clearly showed, first of all, that AppraisalMan was extremely wealthy. The streams of cash were apparent; he received a few big hits from select customers when he made sales of rare or important data. That wasn't the most important part, though... it was no secret that he was rich and the question was less where the money came from and more who it went to.

The answer to that was... confusing. Another page showed large payments to all sorts of names in shorthand. "Blue, Black, Black, Gold, Black, Black, Black" were the latest ones. The "black" ones seemed to grow smaller and smaller in zenny count as time went on.

Disappearance tilted her head pensively. "There's no mention of the Mafia here, but he is clearly financing someone and went through the trouble of hiding their names with these color codes," she explained. "Any ideas? Oh... one more thing. I don't know if I should mention but... there is clearly [REDACTED] of some woman in the browser history. It includes pictures and videos... It could lend some credence to the idea that NightMan is just enjoying the show somewhere."
As Disappearance opened the door, Pirouette nodded to her and they prepared to enter the darkened room. She looked to her colleague as the security system gave up and let them in.

“If it is any consolation, officer Disappearance, this is a part of an on-going investigation, is it not? There is no breach of protocol here. It might be for another officer, but if it is in part of this investigation, well, we are only doing our duty, you know. Now, let us see, yes?”

Moving carefully through the darkened office, Pirouette ignored her first urge to look for a light switch, and instead pulled a small black torch off her belt, clicking it once on the base before shining the slender cone of light about as she began to search. The spot lights showed the obvious furniture, but the ballerina certainly wasn't going to be content just looking over the objects made readily apparent.

While Disappearance was checking the missing officer's computer terminal, Pirouette carefully and methodically covered the rest of the room, shining her torchlight around the darkened corners and seeking any other points of interest that had not been deliberately illuminated by the existing lights.
A cursory glance at his book didn't draw any notable interest; it was about what one might reasonably expect to find.

The only other immediate objects of interest made Pirouette's brow crease for a moment and she reached out to pick up the black control box, then hesitated, her eyes flicking between it and the discarded set of undergarments. Aside form it being deeply improper to leave such things lying around in a place of business, she wasn't going to judge the man his intimates... Even so... she cautiously picked up the black box, then turned to Disappearance.

“Tell me, do you know, does NightMan have a, a partner, that is, you know, a... significant, yes?” she felt a pink blush creep over the edges of her cheeks and shooed it away again with a slow breath. “I cannot think of any proper situation where a woman's undergarment would be left lying in this way, you know. Even in a private office, it is still a work space.” She shook her head. “But if it is just, aie... a gift from a lover, or something of this nature, yes, then it does not tell us much on its own...” She still hadn't touched the out-of-place undergarment, and instead examined the black remote more closely. It was strange that such a thing would have no signs of marking or writing on it to say what it was for. She turned it over in her hands, but resisted the urge to play with the switch on it for now. Perhaps something else would come up that gave a clue as to its purpose. She finished her search of the room, but without any other evidence making itself known to her, she eventually returned to stand by Disappearance just as the other woman found what she was looking for. She looked at the sheets along with her colleague.

“So, he is wealthy. This we know already. He does not buy and sell data, yes? Only, appraises the value of what others bring to him, for a price. So, his business account, it should not have major outlays, yes?” She glanced at Disappearance to confirm, since it was really the other woman's area of understanding. “Well, aside from, you know, normal withdrawals for life, luxury and leisure, no? These do not seem to be that.” The names were deliberately left at obscure monikers; that much meant he was hiding who the outlays were going to in such large, yet dwindling, amounts. The problem was.... Pirouette clicked her tongue, making a short, irritated sound.

“I fear NightMan is correct, Disappearance. This alone is not enough for a proper arrest. There are many reasons one might shorthand payments, and many could be in innocence of the law, you know. It would be enough to seek warrant to trace the transfers... though I wonder why this has not been done.” When Disappearance brought up the other point, Pirouette raised an eyebrow at her and allowed a breif, reserved smile.

“The Code? I presume you mean it is... ah... adult material, no? Is it a recognised person? I do not need to see all of it, but, show me. Just so we may know the face and profile, yes?” She shrugged her shoulders, only a little bit uncomfortable with the situation. “If it is just the normal material, yes, and a favoured actress of his, you know, it is likely of no concern. All men do this, no? It is nothing to judge them for. Ah, besides the fact that he should not be doing this at his place of work, you know.” She cleared her throat, ready to move past the topic, but still felt it a necessary duty to briefly check the material to ensure it wasn't anyone they might recognise, and to have a visual on the person that he was focused on in case it became relevant.

“There is also this,” she ventured, showing the device to her fellow officer. “It has no markings of branding, and just a single dial. I cannot tell what it might be for. You have seen it before, perhaps? Maybe NightMan has mentioned such a thing?”

In the back of her mind, another thought was occurring to Pirouette, just as a possibility worth contemplating. The seed of an idea that she was not able to remove as a possibility. The problem with the thought was that they'd need to play at least a little of AppraisalMan's game to verify it. She put it to the back of her mind for now.
"Anyone he's intimate with? I don't recall any such person being seen around," Disappearance answered, sounding a little perturbed, possibly with the context of that question next to the obvious pornography she'd just viewed on NightMan's terminal. Whatever her reaction to the news of underwear, it was hard to tell, given her mask. It was redacted, as she would say.

As for the spreadsheets, she didn't hesitate long before offering another possibility. "We also have to consider that NightMan himself may be the one who redacted these spreadsheets. Perhaps there is information that incriminates him in some way," she suggested, perhaps feeling that NightMan had done plenty to incriminate himself in various ways already, so what was one more on the pile? With a bit of discomfort, she yielded that it was fine for him to do as all healthy boys do, even if this was not the place for it. "Yes... I'll bring it up so you can see the... Well, there isn't really a face. But you can see it."

The various photos and videos showed a woman with an entirely jet black body... except for various areas that were bright white inside... and a sort of vacuous white hole where there face should be, alternating various shapes ranging from full face coverage like a mask, to a half-crescent, to occasionally disappearing entirely. The poses ranged from camera-appeals, to teasing, to obviously engaging in intercourse with men. With this already on the screen, Disappearance looked to the remote, seeming to think only a minute before understanding what the device was. "Oh... Well, I would venture to say it's a control for a [REDACTED]," Pirouette's fellow officer began, before removing her mask. "That is, it's a remote for a personal massage device. A vibrator, that is. Often used for masturbation." She tried to keep her face serious despite the subject matter, but between this and the videos, she was pretty flushed.

"We should leave. I've saved a copy of the report, as well as other documents which could be useful in the future, though they look like more ordinary reports. Also, just in case it comes up, note: though AppraisalMan does run a shop appraising people's wears, it also functions as a pawn shop. There is a lot of money going in and out based on that activity. I'd imagine he nets a hefty upcharge on rarer data pieces. If I had to venture a guess, that's the primary source of his income. It does not explain these outgoing transactions, however," Disappearance explained, closing all traces of her investigation there, eager to be away from the terminal. It seemed despite Pirouette's reassurance that NightMan's interest was healthy, she still wanted to get out of there. It could even be for sanitary reasons.

Before they could leave, she'd need to send a message to HoundMan to verify the coast was clear. HoundMan sent back quickly that the coast was not exactly clear, yet it was the right time to leave... a subordinate of Bank's, this one a standard NetPolice navi, had shown up around the corner and he was doing his best to keep them there so the two could come out and restore the cube, hiding their presence. If Pirouette chose now to exit, Disappearance would seal the cube behind them.
Despite her best attempts at professionalism and poise, Pirouette nevertheless found herself blushing to a rosy glow and averting her eyes after the more overtly erotic images were shown to her. She much preferred her romance novels, and wasn't one to go seeking visual media of this nature, and as much as she wasn't going to admit it aloud, it was really the first time she'd actually seen live recordings of... such acts. She cleared her throat and stepped back from the console as soon a she had an idea of what the woman being featured looked like.

“Aie... ah, so...” she swallowed and shook herself out, ruffling her wings and flexing them once or twice. Disappearance's explanation of the strange, unmarked control deice further made Pirouette jump with a small start, and she looked down at the control in her hand with a sudden feeling like it was a hot coal.

“Ah! It is... Ya ne znal etogo... I did not...” With a quick motion she darted back to the place she had first found it and set it down again, then stepped away. The revelation was not helping her uncomfortable blush, and she sought for composure for a moment while Disappearance copied what she needed. With a hurried nod, Pirouette agreed with the following assessment.

“Da, yes, we... We have seen what we may here. Let us be quick, yes?” She sent a message to double check with HoundMan, then gestured for Disappearance to follow her out quickly. While the other woman reset the security system, Pirouette took a deep breath and moved down the halls lightly to locate HoundMan. She was mostly expecting to find the dutiful officer delaying Bank's subordinate as he had said, and it occurred to her that HoundMan's tendency to explain things in excessive detail and embark on well-meaning tangents was quite well suited to innocent delays of that nature. She was swift to step up beside him and extend a hand to the other navi.

“Ah, pardon my interruption, HoundMan... Hello, you are here to conduct the search of NightMan's office, yes? You have my thanks. Please do let us know if anything shows up; it may be important, you know.” She gave the other police navi a nod then looked over to HoundMan.

“Best we leave them to their work now, HoundMan. We have we have work of our own to do, and we must get to it, yes? Come, we must head back to the interrogation room now.” Her flushed features hadn't quite cooled down despite her best efforts, but the ballerina gave her fellow officer a reassuring smile and attempted to lead him away to hook back up with Disappearance and begin heading back to AppraisalMan's cell.

Once they were reunited and clear of any other personnel, Pirouette cleared her throat, beginning to talk as they made their way back.

“So... We strike a few things off the list, yes, but nothing conclusive. This is to be expected, I am afraid, however... I am curious... I feel as though there is a complete picture here, you know, we must just find the last pieces and assemble them.” she frowned and looked between Disappearance and HoundMan as they walked, her wings rising and falling slowly along with her measured steps.

“I am... new here, still, no? I wonder, do either of you know what NightMan himself looks like? have you an image or a profile I could check, perhaps? I will explain more to you both once we are private again, yes?” She turned the thoughts over in her mind as they went. It would be interesting to see what Bank's conclusion to the search was. She was content to act now, but took control of the search herself – Pirouette wasn't completely sure that Bank was not involved by some measure, but if she was it wasn't yet clear how.

NightMan, too, might yet be dirty, perverted, both or neither. Well, no, she mentally corrected herself. He was most certainly at least somewhat of a pervert regardless... but he might still be an innocent, if deeply irresponsible one.
Aside from some suffering some minor embarrassment at the discussion of some unknown devices, Pirouette made it in and out of NightMan's office without incident. The room was sealed back up quietly, Pirouette played fetch with HoundMan, then they left the NP navi to check out the already searched scene, ironically another unproductive use of NP officer time, but a necessary one. Soon enough, they were off, now headed back to the holding cells while Pirouette discussed her opinions on their findings.

"Well... Candidly, I wonder if the person in the videos was related to him. NightMan has a face very similar to the, er, 'star' of those videos. I can certainly understand why he'd be interested in them, though... well... obviously, it's complicated," Disappearance murmured, uncertain of any theory that she could propose that wasn't potentially offensive to the missing NightMan. She kept her voice pretty quiet, since they were, as Pirouette said, still in the public.

Houndman, not getting the memo apparently, stuck the muzzle of his armor in between the two of them. "What video did you find?"

"[REDACTED]!" Disappearance started upon his interruption, then cleared her throat. "W-We'll tell you once we're in private, Houndman," Pirouette's lady partner advised, seeming to walk a bit more quickly now.

--------

Returning to the cells, one which apparently contained the new arrival, AppraisalMan's Lady, Disappearance and HoundMan paused outside to await Pirouette's instructions. HoundMan got the run-down of what they found in the office, but he didn't have much to add on the subject. "I've never seen someone like that! I guess Dillan never watched that video or asked me to retrieve it for him, aroo!" HoundMan offered, offering more information than his operator probably appreciated about the types of videos he was sometimes asked to retrieve. "Dang, wonder what NightMan was doing looking at that kinda thing on his personal terminal here! Not a good look... gotta keep that kinda stuff out of the workplace. Well, unless you're kinda... hm... indirectly ordered to do something kind of similar to that by your higher ups... Actually, you shouldn't do that either... hmmmm."

"Yes, well. An interesting wrinkle in our investigation, for sure. How would you like to proceed, Pirouette?" Disappearance asked, crossing her hands behind her back and trying to stop worrying about the pornography consumption habits of her coworkers.
By the time the trio were back in the more private space of the interrogation rooms' antechamber, Pirouette was going over what possibilities were still worth considering and what they needed to learn to confirm or negate them. She nodded to the signs that 'Lady' had been adequately detained for the time being, then looked back to her companions as she pulled out a chair and turned it to one side so she could sit and settle in more comfortably.

“You mentioned that you had tried to interview this 'Lady' previously, yes? I take it she does not at all match the actress in NightMan's videos?” One thing to confirm quickly and easily was worth checking off the list before they went further. “I do regret having to detain her like this, you know. But it is necessary if we are to put any kind of pinch on AppraisalMan, no? So, let us move on.” She tapped her fingers lightly on the desk and stretched, flexing her wings up and rolling her shoulders, before settling back again. After giving the brief run down of what was found, fighting not to blush again as she mentioned the women's garments and sex toys, and showing HoundMan a still frame from one of the videos that Disappearance had seen, to help identify the actress, Pirouette nodded to HoundMan's summary.

“Indeed, yes, HoundMan. It is not a good look, but it was private in his own office, which was locked. I would reprimand him for accessing such things while on duty, but... it was not flaunted or shown about, and until we searched his office he was discrete about this, so... if that is all it is, then it may not be related. Regardless...” She was inwardly pleased to hear HoundMan's conclusions about not necessarily following a superior's orders if they violated your own personal rights... Still, work to do. She shook her head and moved on.

“We have a selection of possible answer to this puzzle, you know... and less than two hours to work out which is the truth. Here is what we know for now...

NightMan has some evidence to suggest illegal dealings, but, unless he edited the records himself, it would not be enough to hold AppraisalMan without his own confession. He used this opportunity to make some very unusual and very specific requests, rather than following normal protocol. He has since been completely unable to be contacted.” She nodded to herself, mentally ordering the details.

“Bank went along with this, despite the wasteful process and the drain on department resources. It appears quite counter to her normal way of operating, you know.

AppraisalMan has been uncooperative, but not hostile. He has shown... aie... the word... naklonnost'... ah, you know... a... a leaning, ah, inclination, yes? Towards more erotic modes of dress and behaviour from the ones interviewing him. He has continued his work all this time, and has not been bothered by his detention so long as he can do so.

So... we have now detained him properly. He has been isolated and cut off from outside communications, both with other navigators, and with his operator for the time being. He has no communication or contact and cannot pursue his business while he is being held like this. We have a limited amount of time that we may hold him like this, but it must be enough, yes?” Here Pirouette closed her eyes and thought for a moment, wings slowly rising and falling as she folded her arms in front of her on the table. After moment, she opened them and looked at her companions.

“So, theories, for why this massive waste of resource has occurred, yes? I know you have worked a long time on this case, Disappearance, but as Internal Affairs, I am far less concerned about AppriasalMan's mafia ties, if they exist, than I am about the mismanagement and poor conduct that has surrounded it. The case will move forward after today no matter what we discover here – he cannot be held longer without more evidence, you know, and if he truly is dirty, then I expect that Investigations will not leave the matter alone, and will seek and find the additional evidence they need to bring him in properly, yes?” Here she offered a vaguely apologetic smile to Disappearance, which would hopefully be backed up by the resolution to do whatever they could in the time that was left. She drew a breath and let it out again.

“To theories, then, and what we must learn to disprove them, yes?

Let us first suppose that NightMan is innocent of this mess... At very least he is in dereliction of duty, you know, but the possibility remains that he was compromised and the instructions did not come from him, or came from him under duress. So what do we need to know, that AppraisalMan might possibly give us, if this were the case? All I can think of for this, you know, is if he knows NightMan, or knows what is going on here. So... For this, we must know what his relation is to NightMan and what he knows of him.

The next possibility is that it is AppraisalMan who is mostly the tool in this scene, no? That NightMan is using the situation for his own desire in some way. The question would be what and why, yes? But AppraisalMan isn't likely to know these things if it were true. So we must think of the what and why, and decide how we can confirm or deny them using this situation.

Perhaps he set this up to draw out a show, which he could watch, no? It would be very complex, with little certainty, you know, and also, there would be easier ways to get what he sought, with less risk. NightMan may be an irresponsible pervert, but this reason... it does not seem likely, you know.” Pirouette looked across to Disappearance and made a subtle comparison in her mind, then shook her head. She wasn't a body match for his favourite actress, and that was a small relief, in a way.

“We know he called on you directly, Disappearance, but at least I think we can rule out him doing so out of pure perversion.” She smiled briefly and raised her eyebrows towards her colleagues with a lidded expression of amusement on her features.

“Though I have contemplated the idea that NightMan is... let us say, you know, moonlighting... as an adult actress, himself. GMOs, they can do much, yes? Perhaps he sets this up to waste time, a long time, during which he has no other duties until it is fulfilled. As a bonus, he can review the efforts of officers he knows, for... inspiration.” Here, she shrugged and shook her head. “If this is the cause, well, AppraisalMan cannot help us confirm it, except in one way – we would need to learn more completely how he is grading us, and what drives his reasons for defining it so. This is something we can find out.” Pirouette nodded to herself, then briefly thought about the other loose ends.

“The question of Bank, it remains. At this stage, I fear, her own motives are likely to remain uncertain. It could be a sense of duty overriding common sense. It could be a... aie... what is the term used? It is.... zlobnyy... you know... ah... she is doing as he asks, and knows it is bad, but is doing it so she can hang him for it later. Ah...” She snapped her fingers as her mind found the right term. “Ah, you call it malicious compliance, yes? Perhaps? She may be going with this whole mess, with the intent of blaming NightMan's bad actions and gaining advancement herself in some way. I would not favour her for it, if so. She should have acted long before now. But I fear it is a side issue, and not something we have any real way of learning about from AppraisalMan himself, no?”

At this point, Pirouette stood and took a brief lap around the room, walking and glancing over Disappearance's notes again as she did. Her mind was now on what approach was best to take with the appraiser himself, but she wouldn't know for certain until she could see his reaction to the change in circumstances. She turned back to the others.

“We must try to learn if he knows anything of NightMan, or the situation he was put in. He seemed to know that he could push his uncooperative behaviour quite far, but we must try to learn just how much he understands of the orders you were given. We must also learn, possibly before we can learn other things, exactly what he is appraising and by what measures, and if possible, why those. This, I think, may tell us much, even if it is as innocent as he personal preferences.

I will speak to AppriasalMan one more time before we begin, and I will place some of our cards face up to him, yes? I will ensure he understands his situation, and how he can most quickly alleviate it.” She looked back and forth between HoundMan and Disappearance. “Perhaps while I do this, you may wish to check on this Lady once more. See if her circumstance has changed her behaviour. If she cannot talk, maybe see if she will write, or sign, perhaps, no? Learn anything you can. It is no harm to be forthcoming with her, I do not think. She will not be allowed communication with AppraisalMan until he is either released or arrested, so, for now it does not matter what she knows, if it will cause her to share in return. This is acceptable to you both, yes? Have I forgotten any detail so far?”

If everything seemed correct and she'd not missed anything major, Pirouette nodded to her companions and crossed to the door leading to ApraisalMan's holding cell, taking along breath to take her poise, ruffle and settle her wings and brush off her skirt just to be sure, before heading into the room to assess how their house guest was reacting to his suddenly enforced isolation.
"She's actually had her face covered and has never spoken when interrograted..." Disappearance admitted, now understanding how that could be taken as suspicious. "It does perhaps merit further investigation..."

"Aroo! A person who hides both their face and their voice is pretty suspicious!" HoundMan agreed.

Disappearance took off her mask again and faced him with a frown, wondering if he saw the implications of what he was saying.

Approaching the table, HoundMan watched the still-frame, his tail-armor and ear-armor both perking up as he did. "Hmmmm..." he murmured, the green scopes of his helmet squinting as he inspected it very, very closely. He was still staring by the time Pirouette got around to laying out the other clues so far.

Disappearance attempted to pitch in, while HoundMan was absent. "I agree that we don't have what we need to advance the Mafia financier ties argument right now. It is very important that it gets addressed down the line, but that should have been done by other departments with the proper tools and qualifications from the get-go," she nodded along, keeping her mask off. "As for the tie between AppraisalMan and NightMan... I believe AppraisalMan is a tool, in a sense, but not that he's being used by NightMan. AppraisalMan doesn't act like somebody who could be acting under any kind of duress. I mean... anything's possible, but besides his cocky attitude, there's the fact that he didn't leave or lawyer up before this point."

Her eyes widened at the next theory. "You think NightMan is... an adult actress?" she asked, sounding struck with disbelief.

HoundMan looked up from the photograph, with a grin on his face. "Ha! Moonlighting. I get it!"

Disappearance lowered her eyes to the table as the thought over the possibilities carefully, especially as they related to her direct superior. "I will say... Bank doesn't seem like the type of person to let an opportunity at advancement go by. I could kind of imagine it. Frankly, she's so shrewd when it comes to money and time management, it's bizarre she hasn't stepped in up till this point. It's almost as though there's some profit in letting it continue," she suggested.

"You think AppraisalMan is paying her and NightMan? It could be that simple, aroo. Bank likes money," HoundMan speculated, offering a rare bit of input related to solving the mystery.

"One thing's Pirouette is surely right about: getting information out of AppraisalMan is very difficult. Well, it was in the past, anyways. Maybe it will go better now that we've cut him off from his work for the day," Disappearance reminded them all. "Still, one does wonder what it is that makes him feel so bulletproof. I do think he and NightMan had to be connected together somehow as partners or complicit. Because otherwise, it makes no sense that NightMan gave him this sweet deal. There would have been every opportunity for some of Investigations less... kind officers to get involved, without NightMan's directions forbidding it."

The others nodded as Pirouette described her next plan, which would mean showing AppraisalMan some of the fruits of their investigation so far and perhaps why he should be worried. "I'll go check on Lady! We gotta see if she matches up with the lady in the photograph, aroo." His tail armor seemed to be wagging very hard.

"... We can do that by seeing her face and hearing her voice," Disappearance reminded him, dragging his mind out of the gutter. "It sounds good to me. We'll let you know results as soon as we have them. We won't return until you tell us to or unless something goes wrong... there should be plenty we can learn from Lady if she really is the woman from NightMan's video."

The two disappeared, leaving Pirouette to re-enter the room with AppraisalMan. Sure enough, perhaps to her delight, she'd see that he was no longer inspecting data fragments with his spectacle. He didn't look agitated, but he did look bored. "Ah, you're back," he greeted her, perhaps hoping to solicit some conversation this time. "I hope the others have given you some tips so you can perform a little more eloquently this time. Then again, perhaps you'd be better off discarding any advice they've given you and trying a fresh start," he remarked. With no diamonds to look at, his monocle's scope was instead on her, expanding and retracting ominously. "It sounds like this may be my last day here. They confiscated my work earlier and told me I'm forbidden to leave. Is that your doing?" he questioned again, his pretty face still wearing that large, thin smile; his visage was so angular that it looked a bit like a cut diamond itself. "If you're trying to get under my skin, that's a 22/100 start, I'd say."
The change in AppraisalMan's attitude wasn't large, she had to admit, but it was apparent at least. Pirouette entered the room and moved to take a seat across from him, turning the chair to the side as she flexed her wings, and crossing one leg over the other as she regarded him. Rather than answer hi question or acknowledge his appraisal directly, she took a moment to cast an eye over the rest of his situation. After a few seconds she addressed him, flicking her eyes to his for the first time.

“I am pleased to see that despite there being no change in my own demeanour, you have decided to be more forthcoming. Only a little, perhaps, but it is progress. Good Boy.” She paused for a moment, taking out her black notebook and pulling her quill from the air long enough to jot a single line. With another flick of her wrist, she looked up again.

“AppraisalMan, while we are not pressing immediate charges against you, you are being detained until further notice. Whatever you have been told so far, I wish you to understand that until we lay formal charges, or until we release you, you will be cut off from external media, email and contacts, your operator, your associates and your business. Your Lady friend has also been detained in this manner, under suspicion of abetting. I do not know how long your business will manage itself without your supervision, and it will perhaps not be a great inconvenience for you, yes? Despite this, I will let you know the simplest and quickest ways in which this circumstance can be ended.”

“The first, you know, it is that you divulge the information that has been sought for. This way, it is the least interesting course for me. I am not so interested in whether you finance mafia agents or not. While it is a curiosity to me, why particular payments you have been making have been dwindling ever more of late, it is not my primary concern. If information leads to arrest charges, your communications will be restored, as are your legal rights, but I do not imagine your business contact is quite so desperately important as this, no?”

“The second, is that you offer up information that will assist me in my own investigation. I have suspicion that you know and could tell much that would be... illuminating, if you desired. I think, too, that this sort of information may have a different value to you, you know, to keep or to share, than the former line of questions. My concerns are direct, you know. I think if I get the answers I need, and I believe you, I will see no further reason to keep you locked down here, yes?”

Here, Pirouette stood again and paced the room; hopefully some of the messy discards of previous interviews had been cleared up as she'd requested, but if not she took stock of what was actually in the room for a moment or two, her disdain for it clear.

“I am not unreasonable, AppriasalMan. We can continue to make life difficult, boring and uncomfortable for one another for a while, you know... or I might play your game, and perhaps we will both get what we want a little sooner, yes?” She turned from her inspection and approached, leaning in towards the glass and putting one hand on it as she brought her face down to his level; she remained on her toes, and as her wings arched behind, there was a certain, deliberately seductive bend to her hips in order to make the pose.

“For the next hour or two, I can try to be whatever most suites you... I am a trained performer, and I can be many things, and many people, very convincingly, you know. But I will need assurance, yes? To play, I must know that in this exchange, you will be co-operative by the end of it.” She stood back and returned to the centre of the room, turning her back to the glass and reaching back to pull the pins from her hair until it fell free into a loose blonde tumble about her shoulders.

“I would also know how and what it is you appraise...” She glanced over her shoulder, wings rising and falling slowly in time with her breathing. “When we appraise a diamond, you know, we measure many different things, and grade more than a dozen features, to arrive at a final appraisal value,yes? You make it your life and trade to do this, yes, and to do it well, so, you will not have a single blunt factor. I can play your game better if I know what you measure to arrive at your figure, no?” She had to suppose that there was always a chance that not telling them the rules was an important part of the game, and she half expected him to tell her as much, but she hoped otherwise... after all, she could hardly give the most satisfying performance she could offer while fumbling in the dark. She took a few slow steps about the room once more, then turned to face him again.

“These are my terms, AppraisalMan. It is up to you how you spend the next two hours. You will work with this, yes? Is there anything you wish to say, or to ask, before we begin?” She arched one eyebrow towards him. If he was actually interested in the game at all, he'd almost certainly agree to play... if his motives lay elsewhere, there was nothing she could really do if he shut her down... but he'd be in for a very boring twenty-four hours.