Chapter 7: Julien Six

TL: cici, Editor: MochiMochi95, QC: Lady Blue

Synopsis: “The night before yesterday, were you in Cheng Guang Mansion?”

 

First Published on Ainushi. 

 

“Vi-Vi-Vice Captain Tao!”

As soon as Tao Ran looked back, he saw that little glasses, Xiao Haiyang, who was surprisingly good at “Guankou” (1) running towards him.

Xiao Haiyang’s glasses were broken yesterday, however, he did not manage to find time to get a new pair. As a result, the glasses were crooked and fell under his cheekbones. He breathlessly stopped in front of Tao Ran and inhaled acutely with an abnormally severe expression. Even Tao Ran felt his chest tighten a bit when looking at him.

Xiao Haiyang’s face was stretched as if he just had a face-lift. He wiped the sweat from his palm onto his pants and corrected the position of the glasses that were lingering about.

Then, he deliberately cleared his throat, pulled out his cell phone from his pocket and opened the memo: “Vice Captain Tao, I want to report a situation to you.”

Tao Ran waited amiably until Xiao Haiyang’s breath evened out: “Don’t hurry, tell me slowly.”

“When we visited the Western District yesterday, I found that the population there consisted of different groups, and was quite transitory and seasonal in their lifestyle. It is not uncommon for tenants to change jobs or move out. In fact, compared to normal rented shared flats, that place is more similar to a small or medium-sized hostel with poor conditions, so generally speaking the people there are not very close to each other, except for those who are from the same province and take care of each other. Yesterday, our colleagues were busy for the whole day but didn’t find much useful information.”

Tao Ran nodded slightly to encourage him: “Mm.”

“But among the people who lived with He Zhongyi, one came from the same province as him. This man, called…” Xiao Haiyang checked his memo, “…called Zhao Yulong, had a good relationship with the deceased. It was said that He Zhongyi got his delivery job by his reference. Mao Xiaowei said he went back home for some affairs these two days.”

Tao Ran slightly lifted his eyebrows in surprise; he was about to contact this man.

Xiao Haiyang: “Last night I found the person in charge of the distribution point of that chain coffee shop, and got the contact number of this Zhao Yulong. After Zhao Yulong heard what I said, he agreed to take the last bus last night to return to Yancheng emergently. I scheduled a meeting with him today.”

Tao Ran looked at him thoughtfully: “I thought the investigation focus of the Sub Bureau is now Ma Xiaowei.”

Xiao Haiyang tightened his face, subconsciously pulling the lower hem of his shirt: “I… I have a feeling that there is something wrong about the mysterious figure who gave a phone to the deceased. There are still too many doubtful points to conclude that Ma Xiaowei is the murderer now… I have also informed our captain of this situation… he said that I should not always be self-righteous and ask for more trouble.”

When Tao Ran heard this, his face darkened and his gentle smile disappeared: “What’s the time of your appointment?”

“Oh,” Xiao Haiyang looked at his watch. “If the coach is not delayed, it should be just an hour from now.”

Tao Ran made his decision quickly: “I will meet him with you, let’s go!”

When the criminal policemen of base units were walking down the street under the sun, Mr. Fei was leaning against the soft leather of the swivel chair in his office.

One of his fingers gently supported his forehead. The laptop on the desk next to him showed He Zhongyi’s brief and insignificant life on its screen. Fei Du singled out someone in his contacts list and made a call.

“Hi, Bro Chang, it’s me.” Listening to what the person on the other end of the phone was saying, Fei Du smiled and continued, “Well, I’m sorry to trouble you but I indeed do need your help on something.”

In less than half an hour, Fei Du smoothly got what he wanted–all nearby surveillance camera records of Cheng Guang Mansion’s opening night.

It was the time for lunch break; Fei Du heated a jar of hot milk using the microwave in the pantry, praised Miss Secretary’s figure casually, asked her to eat well and stop losing weight, and then locked the door of his office, put on headphones, put the song he looped in his car on repeat, and pulled out a single A4 size paper.

He sketched a simple topographic map on that piece of paper with some abstract painting skills that only he himself could decipher, then kept the pen rotating in his hand, thought for a while, circled a few places on it and wrote “20: 00-21: 30”. Then, he stopped moving the nib for a moment, then changed “20:00” to “20:30”.

Fei Du picked a few from that whole bunch of surveillance records and split the screen to show them all together, selecting the time period between half-past eight to half-past nine and watching in fast forward mode.

On the screen, several groups of records forwarded rapidly at the same time. He rested on the back of the chair lazily. The spirit of his whole body seemed to be concentrated in his eyes which were staring at the screen with no movement.

In the same instance, Luo Wenzhou, while sandwiching a briefcase between his body and his hand and wearing his attention-seeking sunglasses, strolled around a traffic hub in the Huashi District, waving at the pass-by taxis from time to time. However, all taxis passed by were not available. Seeing this situation, the special local product of Huashi District–a bunch of illegitimate taxi drivers parked on the roadside made invitations to him.

“Hey handsome, want a ride?”

“Hey handsome, where are you going?”

“It’s cheap and faster than taxis!”

Luo Wenzhou reviewed the illegitimate taxi army, picked and chose, then finally stopped in front of a young man with short hair.

The young man was very clever. He immediately drew the door open for him: “Get on please, where are you going?”

Luo Wenzhou did not say anything, turned his body and sat in the car.

The young man with short hair turned on the air conditioner for him and drove the car smoothly out of the car queue: “Handsome, you haven’t told me where you want to go.”

“You can just go straight ahead.” Luo Wenzhou took his sunglasses off. His sharp eyes looked into the driver’s eyes through the rearview mirror. The driver suddenly was taken aback for a moment and felt inexplicably uneasy.

“I have an anonymous report here.” After they drove away, Luo Wenzhou calmly opened the briefcase, took out a copy of some document and readily flipped open a few pages. The driver’s facial expression changed immediately. Their car almost hit a car next to them and as a result, received a long whistle. Luo Wenzhou kept his facial expression steady. “I’m not from your Sub Bureau. Don’t panic, keep going straight ahead. I have a few questions for you.”

Tao Ran and Xiao Haiyang met Zhao Yulong, He Zhongyi’s fellow from same the province successfully, and the three of them went to a noodle restaurant together.

Zhao Yulong, who was middle-aged, had worked hard in Yancheng for many years. Although he was still not able to find his place in the city, he still had it much better than the youths who kept running into walls.

His face wore the tried look produced by a dozen hours of the long-distance bus trip. He blinked a few times, his wide-brimmed eye bags crumbling: “I really did not expect this would happen to him–Sir, may I smoke?”

In such a small noodle restaurant, nobody enforced the ban on smoking. There were men smoking everywhere. Zhao Yunlong forced two mouthfuls and rubbed his face: “Zhongyi was a good child. There are a lot of people who go to the billiard room or chess room whenever they are free, but he never did. He worked hard to save money, said that the money would be sent home to his mother for her to visit doctors. He didn’t steal, didn’t rob and didn’t gamble, much less make troubles. Why is it him who’s gone!? What do you two want to know? As long as I have the information, I will not hide anything.”

Tao Ran observed Zhao Yulong and found that he used his right hand to hold chopsticks, but left hand to hold cigarettes. Besides, his tea handles pointed to his left–in the olden times, parents were afraid that children would “fight” when eating at the table, so they would forcibly “correct” left-handedness. This kind of situation was quite common.

Tao Ran pulled a photo out of his wallet. The photo was of the pair of shoes on the deceased’s feet: “May I ask if it was you who lent this pair of shoes to He Zhongyi?”

Zhao Yulong looked down and the frame of his eyes almost turned red. He nodded as if his spirit was not in his body: “They are mine. He… was he gone wearing this pair of shoes?”

“Yes. These shoes are very crucial,” said Tao Ran. “Do you know why he borrowed these shoes?”

Zhao Yulong was a bit dazed and thought for a while: “He said he wanted to meet somebody in a high-class place, called… Something Guang… Cheng Guang Building or Villa?”

Xiao Haiyang suddenly sat straight: “Cheng Guang Mansion!”

“Yes yes.” Said Zhao Yulong. “It’s that place.”

“Who was he going to meet? Why he meeting him?”

Zhao Yulong shook his head: “He didn’t tell me. I asked him, but that child had very firm ideas and kept his mouth shut.”

Xiao Haiyang asked hurriedly: “Mr. Zhao, He Zhongyi had a new cell phone, hadn’t he?”

“Ah, there was one,” said Zhao Yulong. “You are talking about that white one, aren’t you? He usually wasn’t willing to use it, so he was still using the old one. He just looked at the new phone sometimes, but had already put several layers of screen protector on it.”

Xiao Haiyang: “Then, do you know who gave him the phone?”

Zhao Yulong slowly frowned.

Tao Ran asked: “Why?”

“In the beginning, he said it was given by a fellow from the same province. At that time, I already felt very strange because I had never heard him mention he had any local acquaintances. I was afraid of him lacking alertness and encountering some bad people. Buying those expensive things for you for no reason is just like offering courtesy for nothing, isn’t it?” Zhao Yulong flicked off the tobacco ashes. “I kept asking him so he finally told me that one day when he was delivering, he had a small conflict with someone. That person beat him up a few times, but he didn’t fight back. Then he didn’t know if it was because the other side felt regret or some other reasons, that phone was given to him as an apology.”

Tao Ran and Xiao Haiyang looked into each other’s eyes – They never heard about this when they visited that area before.

Had a conflict with other people, then the other party apologized; why were such things worth concealing?

If it was the truth, then why didn’t He Zhongyi tell the truth, but claim that it was given by an acquaintance?

He Zhongyi lived together with so many people but no one found out that he was beaten, which indicated that the physical conflict was not serious. Then why did the other party “apologize” and give him valuables?

Suddenly, this case, seemingly with just the investigation of the private relations of the deceased, made it impossible to identify the murderer.

Zhao Yulong did not know where exactly the mysterious mobile phone came from, but he provided the approximate time when the conflict had occurred. Tao Ran and Xiao Haiyang had to follow this lead and searched the distribution company where He Zhongyi was working for to find more other clues.

Afternoon, the previously sunny weather suddenly changed its face without any signs. The arrogant sun was surrounded in all directions by the dark clouds that came from nowhere. The wind carried suppressed moisture. It could be seen that there would soon be an abrupt shower.

Luo Wenzhou got off the car near a metro station but did not leave. As he reached out to the door, he glanced around. A van which originally stopped along the road suddenly moved when his line of sight passed through it. It was driven slowly away as if the driver had a guilty conscience.

Luo Wenzhou bent over slightly and drew his mouth close to the driver’s ear across the half-open window: “Someone is watching you. Be careful. If there is any abnormal event, contact me at any time.”

Although the illegitimate taxi driver was enjoying the air conditioning, his head was still covered in sweats. He nodded quickly.

Luo Wenzhou took a deep look at him and turned away to go to the metro station. Right after he went through the security check, his cell phone rang.

“Tao Ran, what happened?” He said as he swiped into the station, then suddenly he stopped moving. “What? Repeat that name again.”

The windows in Fei Du’s office which were not locked properly made a  “pa” sound, and were closed by the wind. A few sheets of paper fell to the ground; right at this moment, his hand which was holding the mouse suddenly moved.

Fei Du froze one of the surveillance camera records, enlarged it and dragged it back, and found that the time was at about 8:50 pm.

It was a very peripheral camera, which was positioned almost out of the scope of Cheng Guang Mansion. It was monitoring a stone path.

Since the area was located in the proximity of a river, there were still abundant mosquitoes even in early summer. There were very few people passing by after it got dark. Even if there were some occasionally walking by, they were all in hurry–there was a shadow, nevertheless, that lingered and hesitated under the streetlamp for a long time.

In the camera, he could only see that the person was wearing a rough and uncoordinated suit. The figure was not tall and a bit thin. He stood there and continuously smoked several cigarettes.

He held a kraft paper bag tightly in his hand, looked up towards one direction and waited for a moment from time to time. After a while, he seemed to answer a phone call, said a few words to the person on the line, and then hurried out of the camera’s view.

Fei Du watched this part of the video over and over again for several times, but he was still unsure whether that was the deceased, who he had met only once. He grabbed the car key, closed his computer and went out.

40 minutes later, Fei Du came to the core commercial area of Huashi District.

He looked up at the sky that was getting more and more gloomy, grabbed an umbrella from the car trunk, and walked towards the landscape area around Cheng Guang Mansion.

Fei Du had an excellent sense of direction, he almost made no detours before he found the location of that surveillance camera.

The water vapor in the air was so concentrated that it was about to drop. He carefully observed the location of the surveillance camera, searched his memories for the direction in which the person in the camera has been looking towards, and turned around. At the end of his line of sight, he could see the shadowy Cheng Guang Mansion.

Fei Du’s gaze fell on the trash bin beside him–on the stone for killing cigarettes, there were some lonely cigarette butts lying there.

This place was away from the beaten track, so the trash bin was clean. There was hardly anyone throwing anything into it. The cleaners generally came for clean-up every ten days or half a month. Fei Du pulled out a piece of silk handkerchief from his pocket and carefully pinched a few cigarette butts.

At this moment, his cellphone suddenly rang.

Fei Du wrapped the cigarette butts calmly, then he pulled out the phone, took a look at the caller ID, and smiled before saying: “Why? You are suddenly so eager to see me, that only one day without meeting me makes you feel like many seasons have passed, is it?”

Tao Ran’s voice was quite serious: “The night before yesterday, were you in Cheng Guang Mansion?”

“Yes.” Fei Du stopped for a while and asked. “What happened?”

“Were you with a man called Zhang Donglai?”

Fei Du suddenly felt surprised for a moment. Before he was able to respond, there was a sudden loud crash of thunder and the heavy rains dropped down with a “Hula” sound, as if water from inside a basin was being poured down.

 

 

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(1) Guankou: A way of performance in Chinese popular comedic performing arts Xiangsheng, in which one actor continuously speaks.

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