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Pearls For a Funeral

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The inside of the Lone Palm bar was its usual crowded, dimly-lit, smokey self befitting a Friday night. Wei Wuxian shifted on his bar stool and set aside the day’s paper as he took a sip of his gimlet. The gin hit the back of his throat, the flavor of cucumber bursting fresh and crisp as it coated his tongue. Warmth spread through his tired limbs as he reached for his pack of Lucky Strikes and flicked his zippo with the pad of his callused thumb, letting the flame light up his features before taking the first, long inhale of his cigarette.

The headline splashed across the front page of the Chronicle hollered “MOGUL JIN GUANGSHAN FOUND DEAD ON HIS HONEYMOON” in bold, capital letters. Wei Wuxian took a slow drag of his cigarette and strained to read the small print below. Of all the rich bastards in San Francisco, Jin Guangshan was probably simultaneously the most admired and the most hated. Certainly the most envied. Many lollygaggers and rubberneckers would be sure to come to his funeral, Wei Wuxian thought as he chewed his lower lip. Many would likely scratch and bite and attempt to claw out their own piece of his inheritance. Wei Wuxian dragged his index finger down the page, staining it with ink while scanning the article for the juiciest tidbits.

The leader of the Jin Enterprises is survived by his sons, Zixuan and Guangyao, and his young widower, Lan Wangji, one of the scions of the fabled Lan dynasty, which had fallen upon financial troubles of late. Lan Wangji and Jin Guangshan were hastily married in a private ceremony a little over three weeks ago in Tiburon.

Wei Wuxian remembered it well. The gossip rags were having a field day of that wedding. Lan Wangji had been young, well bred, and gorgeous, whereas Jin Guangshan had ever been known as a nouveau riche philanderer and purveyor of enterprises that may very well have crossed into criminal. After the passing of his last legal wife, he had begun to sniff around the Lans, who had been rapidly descending into financial ruin, without any obvious way to recover their former grandeur. A marriage into a family that was the closest as you could get to royalty in San Francisco would have elevated Jin Guangshan in society in a way that all his money never quite did. Logically, he had fixed his sights then on Lan Xichen, the eldest son of the dying dynasty, and heir to all that fabled Lan prestige. Imagine everyone’s shock when it was Lan Wangji, Lan Xichen’s younger, silent brother, the renowned Ice Prince, whom the mogul had ended up dragging to the altar.

The Lan Estate, at least, seemed to be well provided for, Wei Wuxian thought with a smirk as he sipped his drink. He knew a little of the Lans, enough to know that the patriarch and uncle, Lan Qiren, would never have allowed his pristine, precious nephew to enter such a union without the appropriate contracts in place, contracts which would have afforded Lan Wangji a hefty inheritance in the case of his husband’s tragic and untimely passing.

“Couldn’t even wait for the honeymoon to end, huh?” Wei Wuxian snorted into his drink. It wasn’t a generous thought, but then again, he had owed Lan Wangji nothing, certainly no benefit of doubt. He didn’t blame the nubile swain. He probably would have killed Guangshan himself, that utter sleazeball, if it had fallen to him to save his family fortune by trading in his virtue. Luckily, Wei Wuxian had very little in the way of virtue, and even less in the way of family to his name.

In fact, the closest thing Wei Wuxian had ever had to family, his ex-partner from the police force, was in the process of angrily tossing his fedora onto the bar next to him, and sliding onto the empty bar stool at his side. “I’ll have whatever he’s having,” Jiang Cheng barked at the bartender, before casting a suspicious look at Wei Wuxian’s drink. “Nevermind. Make mine an old-fashioned.”

“Good evening to you too, Jiang Cheng,” Wei Wuxian turned his brightest grin towards the man next to him. His former partner, the one who definitely had no regrets when Wei Wuxian retired early, the one who absolutely did not miss the stupid gumshoe, no sirree, cast him a derisive look and then poked at the newspaper headline with more violence than the situation called for. “Jin Guangshan finally met a problem he couldn’t buy his way out of,” Wei Wuxian said, reaching his pack of Lucky Strikes towards Jiang Cheng and waiting for the detective to pull out one of the proffered cigarettes from the pack.

“It’s a bullshit case that stinks to high heaven,” Jiang Cheng let out, as gruffly as ever. “The Lans have barricaded themselves behind a wall of attorneys and the Jins aren’t cooperating much more either. You’d think someone somewhere would want to know who bumped off dear old dad.”

“So, you do suspect foul play?” Wei Wuxian couldn’t help but ask. It was Friday, and usually that was the night they left it all behind them. The detective and the private eye disappeared, and what remained was two men who tolerated each other much more than anyone else in the world. In Jiang Cheng’s case, it had been simple misanthropy, whereas for Wei Wuxian the reality of simply being so much smarter than anyone else had proven much more of a burden than a boon. Their time in the police academy had made them grow as close as brothers, but when Wei Wuxian finally left the force, for reasons which he never did feel entirely at ease discussing, Jiang Cheng’s forgiveness had been less than forthcoming.

“What do you care? You keep your fucking nose out of police business,” Jiang Cheng snapped, predictably.

“You won’t have a dearth of suspects,” Wei Wuxian shrugged and signaled the bartender for a new drink. “You can’t swing a cat in San Francisco without hitting someone Jin Guangshan has pissed off.”

“I don’t have to swing any cats,” Jiang Cheng replied as he emptied his old-fashioned in one giant swallow and loosened his tie. “It was obviously that gold-digger, Lan Wangji.”

“The Second Jade?” Wei Wuxian snorted. It was hard to imagine Lan Wangji getting his pristine, diamond-encrusted hands dirty like that. Then again, it had been equally difficult imagining him in Jin Guangshan’s bed. Wei Wuxian shuddered at the thought.

“The ink was barely dry on their wedding contract,” Jiang Cheng mused. “Do you know that he gets fifty percent of everything under Guangshan’s will?”

Wei Wuxian blew out a smoke ring and watched it float lazily towards the tarnished mirror reflecting a myriad of bottles in the back of the bar. “He must’ve been quite the lay,” he finally concluded, and immediately washed the words out of his mouth with another sip of his new gimlet.

“You should’ve seen him at the funeral,” Jiang Cheng snorted. “Wide brimmed hat with this ostentatious veil, right? But fucking dripping in pearls. I’m talking those big, baroque style necklaces, okay. Probably a fucking heirloom.” Jiang Cheng took a drag off his Lucky Strike and fixed Wei Wuxian with an amused look. “I’m pretty sure he wore a dress. Like an actual full-length dress. With these white cuffs and massive golden bracelets. I don’t know. It was obscene.”

“I’m sure Lan Wangji looks pretty as a bird in a dress,” Wei Wuxian let out almost dreamily. He’d only ever seen the young socialite in pictures before, but he was man enough to admit to recognizing effortless beauty when he saw it.

“He could have at least pretended to be sad, you know,” Jiang Cheng said, almost regretfully, as if some part of him actually lamented Jin Guangshan’s passing.

“Are you working the case, then?” Wei Wuxian asked. They tried not to talk shop, they truly did. But this was the splashiest case of the year, and it wasn’t like Wei Wuxian could really keep his nose out of it, not if his ex-partner was investigating it. Could he?

“None of your damned business. You’re not on the force anymore, you private dick.”

“It’s a yes or no question, you don’t have to be such a prick about it.”

“I don’t need your fucking help,” Jiang Cheng bristled, predictably.

“I ain’t offering.”

“Well, good.”

“Good.”

“Fine.”

“Great.” Wei Wuxian directed his eyes back towards his gimlet. “I’m just saying,” he muttered, more to himself than to his former partner, “plenty of folks would’ve killed him. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”

“Yeah, well, my money’s still on the Ice Prince.”

Wei Wuxian’s eyes lit up. “Care to make it interesting?”

Jiang Cheng picked his fedora up off the bar and slapped a few bills down onto the polished countertop. “Wei Wuxian, I mean it,” he said, finger far too familiar and in close proximity to Wei Wuxian’s nose. “You stay the fuck out of my investigation!”

The door of the Lone Palm swung into the foggy San Francisco night, as Jiang Cheng’s form disappeared into the darkness, only a cloud of smoke hovering over the crystal ashtray where he previously sat.

***

The old Lan Manor, for to call it a house was laughable, sat on the eastern boundary of the abandoned Sutro Heights Estate, which had recently lapsed into dilapidation mirroring that of its Lan neighbors. The Great Depression and the War had not been kind to the Lans, whose significant investments into the art and music scenes of San Francisco had not resulted in financial rewards. The elder Lan patriarch had died, after squandering his last dollar, and leaving his brother with the dubious honor of raising his two male heirs - Xichen and Wangji. But good looks and good breeding only got you so far in life. Although, Wei Wuxian mulled over as he stubbed his cigarette out on the bark of a nearby pine tree, it certainly got you as far as you were willing to go.

It was Wen Qing who had given him the message on Monday morning, or rather afternoon, which was the closest Wei Wuxian ever came to mornings, once he actually rolled into his tiny office, located in a walk up of an old Victorian near Alamo Square. Wen Qing had been, formally, his assistant, and informally - his best friend. He provided her male companionship in instances of nosey family members who wondered why she refused to settle down and get married; she provided him structure the kind his little practice would never have seen, had it been left entirely up to his own devices.

“Old Admiral Lan wants you to come by the manor as soon as you’re available,” she said, peeking up at Wei Wuxian over the top of her horn-rimmed glasses while she sipped her morning tea. “I have a date with MianMian, so you’re on your own.” Wei Wuxian could not help but unfurl his lower lip into a pout. His hand, entirely of its own accord, stole a biscotti cookie from Wen Qing’s tea plate, and shoved it into his own mouth. “I’m sure you can be on good behavior, this once,” she added, shoving the address of the Lan Manor into his hand, which was still covered in crumbs from the pilfered biscotto.

“What could the Lans possibly want with me?” Wei Wuxian asked, squinting at the piece of paper as if at any moment it was liable to bite him.

“Perhaps they want you to find out who killed that scumbag Jin Guangshan,” Wen Qing offered, very reasonably, with a slight shrug of her narrow shoulders. “Either way, they’ll probably pay you. They’re moneyed now again, aren’t they? The news rags said Lan Wangji is getting half of everything Jin Guangshan owned. He’s now the majority stakeholder of the entirety of Jin Enterprises.”

“Much good it’s gonna do him on death row,” Wei Wuxian scoffed.

“Think he did it?”

“Jiang Cheng seems darn tooning sure. He certainly had motive.”

“Well, shit, I would’ve popped that pig just for the fun of it,” Wen Qing said, returning to her tea and shielding the remains of the biscotti from Wei Wuxian with her free hand. And that blasé relationship with morality was why she had been his best friend to begin with. That, and the fact that queers traveled in packs.

Wei Wuxian took the stairs leading up to the manor’s front entrance two at a time and used the cloud-shaped knocker to announce himself by rapping at the door. It swung open, revealing the unimpressed face of a butler.

“Wei Wuxian here to see Admiral Lan Qiren,” he announced himself, placing his business card into the butler’s gloved hand. The man stood aside to allow Wei Wuxian entry, and the private eye had to suppress his innate instinct to whistle, because the vestibule of the Lan Manor was as well appointed and tasteful as any palace he may have imagined growing up in Chinatown.

“Wait here, Mr. Wei,” the butler pointed to a settee as he quietly and efficiently flounced off to announce Wei Wuxian’s arrival.

Twirling around, Wei Wuxian took in the marble imperial staircase, with two sets of balustrades of polished dark wood winding up to the upper floor. Above his head, a chandelier made entirely of tiny crystal cranes twinkled with an ominous light. The Lans may have been on the brink of bankruptcy, but signs of their storied majesty were certainly everywhere the eye landed. And Wei Wuxian’s eye in particular caught on a family portrait that hung on the wall opposite the settee. It was traditionally styled and realistically rendered, with the elder Lan sitting regally in the foreground, and the two younger men with impeccable faces, who stood behind him like sentinels, dressed in nearly identical pale-blue suits. One of the young men was smiling. In the other one, Wei Wuxian had recognized the placid features of the infamous Ice Prince, the pearl-draped Black Widower, Lan Wangji.

“Mr. Wei, I presume.”

Wei Wuxian startled and tried to cover up his embarrassment with his brightest and most disarming smile. The man who had snuck up on him on feet as light as a cat’s was clearly one of the fabled Twin Jades. Wei Wuxian recognized him from the portrait - it was a very good likeness, and must have cost a pretty penny.

“I see you’re admiring our family portrait,” Lan Xichen said, not waiting for Wei Wuxian to confirm his identity. “It was one of the wedding gifts that the poor, departed Mr. Jin gave Wangji as a pledge of his troth.”

“One of…?”

“The only one Wangji saw any value in, anyways. Wangji has such immaculate tastes, you understand. He’s very selective about the brands he will wear on his own body.”

Wei Wuxian shifted carefully from one foot to another and let out a noncommittal hum. He was beginning to see what Jiang Cheng had against the Lans, if only as a concept. No wonder they had been under such pressure to marry well to save their estate: these socialites were entirely unsuited to the real world, or whatever world it was that Wei Wuxian currently occupied.

“Anyways, how rude of me. I’m Lan Xichen,” the man finally said, reaching his hand out to shake Wei Wuxian’s. “My Uncle invited you here today to discuss this… unpleasant matter. It’s all so terribly gauche, you understand. It’s not that we don’t want to cooperate with the police investigation, but it’s such a terribly difficult time for us, and their questions are so invasive. And besides, Wangji is bereaved.”

Is he?” Wei Wuxian could not help but inquire.

“It was quite a shock,” Lan Xichen continued, seeming oblivious to Wei Wuxian’s slip in proper manners. “Well, you can imagine. Waking up with your spouse’s corpse next to you, and on your honeymoon, no less. Quite embarrassing.”

“Embarrassing,” Wei Wuxian repeated. “Yes. Quite.”

“My brother has very delicate sensibilities,” Lan Xichen added without any trace of irony.

“And likely even more delicate skin,” Wei Wuxian replied with a lopsided grin. “Men with faces like his do not do well in federal prison.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re insinuating,” Lan Xichen bristled. “It was bad enough having that nasty piece of work, that Detective Jiang fellow, coming by the house, sniffing around like a bloodhound, casting all kinds of aspersions. But you, Mr. Wei, I expected more from you.”

“You did? Why?” Wei Wuxian asked with genuine curiosity.

“Well, for one thing, you have a kind, open face.” That made Wei Wuxian blush and he scratched the side of his nose to hide his sudden discomfiture. “You don’t look angry, like something crawled up your posterior and died, unlike Detective Jiang.” Wei Wuxian was about to protest at this treatment of his former partner, but he decided to finish listening to the entirety of this fascinating tirade.

“And the other thing?”

“The other thing?” Lan Xichen graced Wei Wuxian with a guileless smile. “I don’t know, Mr. Wei, I just have a good feeling about you, that’s all.”

At this moment, the door where the butler had earlier disappeared opened again, and the man pronounced “Admiral Lan will see Mr. Wei now.”

“It appears that I must regrettably cut short this delightful conversation,” Wei Wuxian nodded with a grin towards Lan Xichen. “But I do hope we get to continue it some other time.”

“Ah, my apologies for keeping you from your appointment.”

“No need. Mr. Lan?” Wei Wuxian tipped his trilby, as gallantly as he could manage.

“Please, call me Xichen.”

“Well, I just might,” Wei Wuxian replied with a wink. He wasn’t sure if Lan Xichen had been flirting with him, per se, but flirting had ever been his own default, and he saw no reason to stop now. Besides, you had to be blind not to notice the Elder Jade was a stunner.

***

Lan Qiren, as his title readily implied, had indeed been a retired Navy Admiral, a position which after the war had entitled him to all kinds of due respect, with all the meager benefits the government would provide. He was a man of few companions and fewer indulgences, and whatever was left in him of drive and ambition had all been poured into raising his two orphaned nephews, whom he clearly loved and doted on with the devotion entirely lacking in their biological and evidently unmissed father.

Wei Wuxian found the old Admiral in his study, puffing on a fragrant cigar. He did not drink himself, but as any polite host, he had a jar of Emperor’s Smile brought in and served to Wei Wuxian from what the private eye was fairly sure was a literal silver platter.

"Mr. Wei Wuxian," the Admiral said, turning the business card between his fingers, as if he wasn't the one responsible for Wei Wuxian darkening his doorstep in the first place. He looked like a man in the process of smelling his own fart, and Wei Wuxian couldn't help but wonder if this was an honor reserved exclusively for him, or simply the way Lan Qiren's face normally looked. "Doubtlessly, you are aware of the problem my family is facing right now." Wei Wuxian inclined his head. He always thought it more prudent to let his clients talk, though in his line of work, what people did not say was often even more illuminating than what they did choose to share. "It's utter nonsense, of course. The mere insinuation… Wangji would never!" The Admiral cast another furtive look in Wei Wuxian's direction and found no objections. "I raised him better than that, Mr. Wei," Lan Qiren continued. "When a Lan wants you dead, he meets you at dawn, pistols in hand! None of this underhanded poison malarkey!"

Wei Wuxian coughed to cover up a burst of escaped laughter. So, the Admiral's defense was that if Lan Wangji had wanted his husband dead, he would've dueled him, like a gentleman. Well, Wei Wuxian could see how such a pronouncement would not sit well with the police in general and Jiang Cheng in particular. The Lans were certainly not doing themselves any favors in this investigation.

"So, he was poisoned?" Wei Wuxian asked. Interesting. That information had not been made public yet.

"I have contacts who have contacts at the medical examiner's," the Admiral explained.

"I see." Oh, Wei Wuxian saw alright. And it did not look rosey for the Ice Prince.

"Wangji has never done a single untoward thing in his life," Lan Qiren resumed, his deep voice filled with tangible fondness. "We were all shocked when that philandering swine managed to take advantage of him." Wei Wuxian raised one eyebrow. "I was going to let that pig have either of my nephews over my dead body!" The Admiral exclaimed, angrily stubbing out his cigar in the elaborate Murano glass ashtray by his side. "But he took advantage of Wangji's low alcohol tolerance and trusting nature and well… The impudent alleycat! Were I ten years younger, I would have horsewhipped him in the public square! But for the sake of discretion, I was prevailed upon to permit this unfortunate mésalliance. At least the cad had sense enough to wed Wangji after, to avoid an even bigger scandal. And here I thought it had been Xichen he'd been after all along."

Wei Wuxian found himself chewing his lips. So far, the only thing Lan Qiren had given him was another motive for Jin Guangshan's murder. He pictured Lan Wangji in his mind's eye: draped in pearls and with his virtue besmirched, dropping poison into his husband's wine glass from a secret compartment of a very large, sapphire ring. Just one drop saved him from having to share his bed and life with the man who had stained his pristine honor; one drop restored the Lan family fortune. People have died for less.

“Admiral,” Wei Wuxian cleared his throat and took a refreshing sip of his Emperor’s Smile. “Forgive my impertinence, but I fail to see what my role is in this entire… ah… affair.”

“Obviously, Mr. Wei, I intend to hire you to clear my nephew’s name.”

“Um… how?”

“By uncovering who actually did it! Mr. Wei, I hope you do not need me to tell you how to do your job.”

Wei Wuxian took another drink. “But finding the culprit, that’s the police’s job, Sir.”

“Fuck the police, my boy!” Lan Qiren waved his hand as if shooing away a pestering fly. “The police are part of the problem. In fact, one of the reasons I thought you’d be perfect for the job is that I presume you can use your old connections to shield Wangji from all this… police-related unpleasantness.”

“So, you are aware of my checkered past on the force,” Wei Wuxian shifted in his seat. “Then you are doubtlessly also aware Detective Jiang and I have a history.”

“Good! I’m paying you to have that history!”

“Sir, I cannot interfere with an active police investigation.”

“Cockamamie!” Lan Qiren’s fist landed on the side table near his arm chair with a loud crack. “The police are investigating Wangji, I need you to investigate the actual killer.” Wei Wuxian inclined his head while the Admiral pulled something from the side table which Wei Wuxian quickly recognized for a checkbook. “You find the real killer, Mr. Wei, and you get that former partner of yours off my nephew’s ass,” he said as he wrote in his checkbook, avoiding Wei Wuxian’s eyes. “This is your retainer fee. We will spare no expense. It is imperative that Detective Jiang find himself a new suspect.”

Wei Wuxian took the check from Lan Qiren’s extended hand and let out a soft whistle. His “retainer fee” would more than cover his rent for both the apartment and his office for the next month. Clearly, the Lan estate was flourishing again. He could see their motivation to hold on to that liquidity, which would certainly disappear if Jin Guangshan’s rich widower were to suddenly find himself in prison or, worse yet, on death row, as Wei Wuxian suspected.

“I’ll do my best, Sir.”

“You sure will, Mr. Wei.”

Wei Wuxian placed the check into the inner pocket of his blazer and rose from his seat, placing his trilby back upon his head. “I’ll see myself out, then. And I’ll bill you for any exorbitant expenses.”

“Mr. Wei, my nephew cannot be speaking to the police,” Lan Qiren repeated, as if it hadn’t already been made abundantly clear.

If he’s even a tenth as bad at it as you are, I can see the problem, Wei Wuxian thought to himself while he did as promised, and saw himself out.

Oh, Jiang Cheng was not going to be happy about this. Wei Wuxian pulled out his pack of Lucky Strikes, and lit one of the cigarettes while still standing on the Lan Manor threshold. He took a long drag and tried to take stock of his situation. He wasn’t entirely certain whether he was getting sent on a fool’s errand by Lan Qiren when all signs truly did point to his nephew being the one who’d done the deed, or whether there really was a whole other foul plot afoot, broiling beneath all the glitz and glamour. As suspicious as it all seemed, if the Lans really were guilty, would they really be acting so guilty? Was the real reason Lan Qiren was hiring him simply to meddle with the investigation and keep his prized nephew out of prison? Or was the true murderer really still out there, laughing at all of them from a great distance?

Well, this was, after all, a paying client, and Wei Wuxian knew better than most that beggars could not, in fact, be choosers.

Just as he was about to descend the stone staircase, Wei Wuxian’s ears caught the soft roar of an engine. A gorgeous, spotless, slate-grey Rolls Royce Silver Dawn rolled up along the gravelly driveway towards the manor. The engine was killed, and Wei Wuxian watched with his mouth hanging open as the driver’s side door swung open, and a tall figure in a floor-length black cape with a fur trim got out of the vehicle. Even though the figure wore gloves and heavy bracelets, Wei Wuxian could not help but use his incredibly honed detective skills to figure out that only a man’s hands would have been that big. He allowed his eyes to travel up the slender, black-clad body, found himself entirely unsurprised to find the neck to be dripping in multiple strings of pearls the size of eyeballs, and finally stopped when his gaze reached Lan Wangji’s (for by now Wei Wuxian had very little doubt whom he was looking at) mouth. Wei Wuxian swallowed.

The mouth in question was set in a stern line befitting the immaculate reputation of the Ice Prince, but formed of two lips so soft and shapely that Wei Wuxian found himself mentally reaching out to touch. He immediately gave himself a swift mental kick in the ass, for good measure. Lan Wangji, in the meantime, removed his large pair of Chanel sunglasses, and fixed Wei Wuxian with a distinctly displeased glare.

“Tell me you’re not another one of Seymour Yao’s messenger boys,” the young widower uttered, his voice dripping with disdain as heavily as his neck dripped in pearls. “Go back and tell him for the hundredth time that my husband just died and I will not marry him. And even if my husband was dead for a thousand years, I will never marry him.” And then, Lan Wangji quietly and demurely added, “Ew.”

Wei Wuxian took a few steps towards the man, shocked at the sudden spring in his own step, and cheerfully declared, “I’m not a messenger boy!”

Lan Wangji placed his sunglasses firmly back over his perfectly shaped nose, hiding the deep amber gleam of his eyes. In fact, in the short amount of time that Wei Wuxian had to admire the Ice Prince face to face, he found absolutely nothing out of place in his entire, infuriatingly perfect physiognomy.

“Then why are you here?” Lan Wangji asked, arms crossed, heavy bracelets clanging against each other like bangles.

“I’m here to get you off!”

“I beg your pardon,” Lan Wangji hissed, utterly scandalized.

Wei Wuxian replayed his own words in his mind and scratched the side of his nose. “Uh… ha. I mean, your uncle, the Admiral, has hired me to help solve your case.”

“Mn.” Lan Wangji sounded entirely unimpressed.

“It would help out a lot if we could find some time for me to interview you,” Wei Wuxian pressed on, undaunted.

“You mean question me,” Lan Wangji squinted.

“Not like the police would question you. I'll buy you a drink and everything.”

“My Uncle and Brother are of the opinion that it would be disastrous if the police questioned me. But I have nothing to hide,” Lan Wangji said, infusing the final phrase with copious amounts of indignation. “You’re a gumshoe,” Lan Wangji suddenly pronounced, as if putting two and two together.

“Private investigator.”

“Mn.”

“My name is Wei Wuxian, but if it would put you more at ease, you may call me Wei Ying.”

“It wouldn’t and I don’t think I shall.”

On brand. Wei Wuxian tried to suppress a small smile that threatened to betray his thoughts. “And what shall I call you, then? Your brother said I may call him Xichen. May I call you Wangji?”

“The presumption!”

“Ice Prince it is, then.”

“Impertinence.”

Wei Wuxian tipped his hat at his new project. This one was going to be a challenge. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Ice Prince. I'll be seeing you soon.”

“Not if I see you first.”

Wei Wuxian laughed and waved over his shoulder. “You should definitely not say that to the police!” he shouted at Lan Wangji’s back, as the young widower entered the Lan Manor and slammed the door behind his perfectly erect, cape-clad back.