It was 12 minutes past 7 when The Panda came through the front door of the Pho Bch Nga Restaurant and Karaoke Lounge.
"Can I help you, sir?"
The Panda held up shaggy paw with one solitary digit extended.
"Table for one, sir?"
The Panda gave a solemn nod.
"Follow me, please."
It was 7:14 when The Panda eased his not inconsiderable bulk into a booth in the far corner of the dining area. The waitress handed him a menu.
"Would you like anything to drink, sir?"
The Panda held out two paws, one perpendicular to the other, bisecting it.
"Tea? You want some green tea?"
Again, a solemn nod.
"OK. I'll be right back with your tea."
When she came back, The Panda was pointing to various items on the menu with a chopstick.
"OK...one veggie spring rolls, one angel wings, one lemongrass chicken, one tom kha gai, and one waterfall beef?"
A nod, and a motion to the teacup.
"And more tea? OK, I'll be right back with the tea."
It was 7:23 when the spring rolls and the angel wings arrived at the table. The Panda ate wordlessly, unaware of the stares being directed his way by diners both curious and cautious. The spring rolls were top-notch, and the tom kha gai that came shortly afterwards was very nearly heavenly.
It was 7:35 when the Entrees came to the table, along with yet more tea. The Panda inclined his head to the waitress in the very slightest gesture of appreciation. He made a rubbing motion with his thumb and foreclaw.
"You want the check?"
The Panda nodded. He was halfway through the waterfall beef when she came back with the bill. He handed over his AmEx card silently, chewing slowly, the patience of centuries contained within his jaws. She came back again just as he was digging in to the lemongrass chicken.
"Here you are, sir. Just sign right here. has everything been to your liking?"
The Panda gave a dismissive nod, as if to say that over the grand course of his lifetime he would have meals both better and worse, but that this one would suffice, thank you very much. He wrote in a generous tip for her, signed the slip, and handed it back. It was 7:57. At precisely 8 o'clock, The Panda stopped eating. He stood up abruptly, causing his table and all of its contents to come crashing to the floor. The patrons looked around nervously as The Panda reached into the pocket of his sportcoat, then pulled something out.
He shot the waitress first. He hadn't liked the scent of her perfume one bit, and she wore FAR too much of it. He shot her just above the left breast and watched a small bloom of blood begin to ruin her white silk dress shirt. Predictably, panic ensued. In the midst of the chaos, The Panda stood silently, taking deliberate aim and shooting until the clip was empty. When he finally ran dry, he had shot and killed 5 customers, 3 employees, and a VERY expensive fish tank. He casually pocketed his gun, grabbed a mint out of the tray at the counter, and with a tip of his hat to the terrified but unharmed doorman, The Panda disappeared into the night.
It was 8:19 when Detective Cavanaugh arrived at the crime scene. None of the remaining employees spoke english, and all of hte remaining customers were completely hysterical. Cavanaugh took some notes, grabbed some chicken satay skewers off the grill, and went to clear his head. In the bathroom, he found a young boy hiding in a stall.
"You can come out now, kid. It's all over."
"Is he gone?"
"Is WHO gone?"
"The Panda! IS HE GONE?!"
The kid was on the verge of hysteria.
"Listen, I'm a police officer. Whoever shot those people is gone, and I need you to help me find him. Did you see him?"
"What did he look like?"
"HE LOOKED LIKE A GREAT BIG GIANT PANDA, MISTER! DIDN'T I JUST SAY THAT?"
Cavanaugh's pen stopped moving.
"Did you say a giant panda?"
"yeah, a big giant panda! and he shot my mommy!!!"
"OK, kid, you just hang tight and I'll send someone in to take you home, or wherever you're going."
Cavanaugh could barely keep himself from running as he headed for the phone. He picked it up and dialed the station.
"Captain O'Mara's desk."
"IS the Captain there? This is Cavanaugh."
"This is O'Mara. Cavanaugh, what do you want? I'm testing out my new putter right now. This had better be good."
"Captain, I think I have this case solved. I've got an eyewitness, and I've got motive."
"Already? how can you be sure?"
"The eyewitness said he saw the shooter clearly. Said he looked like a giant panda."
"A WHAT? Cavanaugh, if this is your idea of a joke..."
"Sir, having seen the carnage here, I can assure you that this is no joke. The details of the crime support it. It fits The Panda's MO perfectly."
"Cavanaugh, what are you talking about? Have you been drinking?"
"Sir, think about it for a second. It's a giant panda."
"What does a panda do?"
"I give up, Cavanaugh. What does a panda do?"
"Well, sir...a panda eats, shoots, and leaves."