Chapter 24: Julien Twenty-Three
TL: QuantumC, Editor: MochiMochi
First Published on Ainushi.
“It’s so strange… I’ve searched every toilet stall and asked everyone around. No one saw her leaving… Wait, what’s up, boss?”
“Go get the security footage.” Luo Wenzhou had yet to sort everything out in his mind, but his gut was already screaming at him that something was not right, “Hurry!”
Lang Qiao was taken aback for a second, then dashed out.
The security footage was quickly gathered. It clearly showed that not long after Fei Du left, Mother He had taken a phone call. No one knew what the caller said to her, but she was clearly dumbfounded. The call lasted for about two minutes, during which she gradually turned into a stone. After hanging up, she paced back and forth for a little while, looking in the direction that Fei Du had left. But no one was there.
Disappointed, she lowered her head. Then, as if finally made up her mind, she quietly but firmly walked out of the Bureau.
The security camera picked her up all the way until the front gate. She seemed quite determined, swiftly crossing the road and taking a sharp turn at a crossing, where the camera lost her.
Without Luo Wenzhou’s command, Lang Qiao had already ordered a team of people to start searching along the direction that Mother He had disappeared off to.
“I’ve just talked to Xiao Haiyang,” Tao Ran hastened over. “After Mother He was picked up by folks from the district sub-bureau at the train station, they came straight here as Wang Hongliang had commanded. Then she stayed here the whole time. So, she shouldn’t be very familiar with the city. But judging from the footage, she went directly to that crossing after leaving this place without even looking around. I bet there was someone waiting there.”
Luo Wenzhou: “Get me all the footage from the nearby crossings. Do a thorough search across all the cars and pedestrians that passed by during that time.”
“That’s tough. There’s the recent odd-even-plate-number restriction.” Tao Ran sighed, “The restricted cars can only take the road between 12 AM and 3 AM. Many people who had to travel had to drive at night because of that… so the road was quite busy during this time of the day. It might take us ages to complete a thorough screening. Heaven forbid, if something really is going on, we won’t make it in time.”
Luo Wenzhou paced around wordlessly. Suddenly, he froze in place as if his memory had finally caught up with those legs – Luo Wenzhou finally realized where the thick uneasiness in his heart was coming from.
“…Let him believe that you were scheming something together with those guys.”
“He will become desperate and think that there’s no such thing as ‘justice’ in this world.”
“That’s it. They would have succeeded in controlling the man both physically and mentally.”
How would the caller manage to persuade a timid woman to walk out of the police station in the middle of the night?
Did she think that the man was more trustworthy than the police?
Or… did she lose her trust in the police altogether?
Did she also come to believe that there was no “justice” in this world, and left with despair? Did she decide to deliver justice in her own way?
He turned around abruptly to look for Fei Du.
Fei Du was looking down. His long hair shaded his face. His skin was even paler than usual because of the dark contrast from his shirt. Frankly, he looked like a vampire that never saw daylight. For a second, Luo Wenzhou thought: “Why does he know those people so well?”
When he was not mingling with those dick-headed rich kids, when he was alone, what would he be thinking about?
Fei Du suddenly started murmuring. As if talking to himself, he said: “How come… I didn’t even notice…”
Luo Wenzhou: “What?”
“I asked her, ‘What’s your plan after this is all over?’ She didn’t answer me, but she only asked me to go home early.”
She also said, “For a mom that doesn’t have much in her life, the only thing to look forward to every day is seeing her child.”
That woman – almost stripped of any ability to work because of the sickness – was she also looking forward to his son with all her heart and soul?
Now that her son was gone, what would her plan be for the rest of her life? ——Would there be any at all?
Fei Du ran his fingers along his brows, from the sides to the center, as if he were mocking himself. As he half-turned his head, the corner of his mouth quickly inched up – it was an utterly bitter smile. He murmured again, in a barely audible voice: “How come… I didn’t even notice what she was really saying?”
Tao Ran felt that he was acting weird: “You okay?”
Fei Du looked back and replied with another question: “Sure. Why?”
Tao Ran: “When a murder case is under investigation, our attention is mostly on the dead and the suspect. Sometimes we do overlook the family of the victim. Especially if there are too many things to attend to at the same time. Who’s to blame? Now the most important thing is to find her.”
Fei Du nodded calmly: “Right.”
“Could she still be thinking that Zhang Donglai killed her son, and that we let him go because he is Chief Zhang’s nephew?” Tao Ran asked, “Would she go look for Zhang Donglai then? Should we call the Zhang house?”
“Call and ask Zhang Donglai to keep an eye out. But I don’t think she will go there,” Luo Wenzhou said, massaging his temple with one hand, accidentally pressing on the bruise instead. He hissed, “What use is there for her to find Zhang Donglai? To kill him? An eye for an eye? Zhang Donglai is so much bigger and stronger than her. Even if he just stood there and let her stab him, she probably wouldn’t be able to do it. What’s more likely to happen is that Zhang calls the police and she gets sent back here. It’ll be all the same. Think in the shoes of the killer. He stayed up all night, and it should not be just for taking He Zhongyi’s mom for a stroll.”
At this time, Fei Du, who had been silent the whole time, took up a pen.
“If whoever took her away is the murderer, “ Fei Du jotted down the “5-20” date on the paper, “then first, He Zhongyi’s murder, was it a spur-of-the-moment act or was it planned out?”
He answered his own question without waiting for others to jump in: “I would vote for “spur-of-the-moment”. On the night that he died, He Zhongyi was still asking around for the exact address of the Cheng Guang Mansion.
Luo Wenzhou: “How would you know?”
“I ran into him briefly at the coffee shop where he was the delivery boy and I overheard it. Sorry, I didn’t mean to keep it from you. I just thought that this detail wasn’t important back then.”
Luo Wenzhou nodded: “Makes sense. If the murderer had planned to kill He Zhongyi that night, he wouldn’t be unclear about the address.”
Tao Ran had no idea why the two started talking about this. He felt a bit lost, but his question was cut off by a wave from Luo Wenzhou: “Let’s do a quick suspect analysis.”
“The security footage shows that He Zhongyi took a call, and then left Cheng Guang Mansion to head for Wenchang Road. It looks like someone had asked to meet him there. At that time, the murderer should’ve already known that he was outside the mansion. What would they be talking about on the phone?”
Fei Du narrowed his eyes and lightly tapped on the table with his pen: “No one saw me. I wasn’t caught by any security cameras, and I only wanted to have a word with you. “
“For some reason, the murderer decided to kill He Zhongyi,” said Luo Wenzhou. “Going along with your previous hypothesis, if he hadn’t planned on doing it, then there is a high chance that the weapon wasn’t planted there. What’s more likely is that Zhang Donglai – that retard – took his tie off and left it somewhere. The murderer, who was just pondering about killing He, saw the tie and was inspired. The second question: Why would he ask the victim to meet him here – at Wenchang Road?”
Tao Ran contemplated: “If the murderer is Zhao Haochang, then he picked Wenchang Road because that’s where he works. It’s familiar, so it’ll be convenient.”
“But he should be familiar with a lot of places. Why here? If it’s only for familiarity, why not do it in his neighborhood?” Luo Wenzhou slowly folded his arms across his chest, and caught Fei Du’s eyes. Those eyes were very cold, as if they were made of non-organic material. He did not shy away, but kept staring at Fei Du: “What do you think?”
“I’ve dug a trap and placed a scapegoat in there. Now I need to clear myself from it—” said Fei Du, “It’s for an alibi.”
Tao Ran was not Captain China who became more alert and energized the more he got hacked. Nor was he the youngster who slept during the day and lived during the night. It was way past midnight, and the overworked Tao Ran was now stuffed with more information than he could handle. He felt as if his brain had turned into a pot of boiling porridge: “Wait, slow down, would you? How does the alibi work? We already saw He Zhongyi going to Wenchang Road from the security footage…”
Luo Wenzhou lit up a cigarette. He turned around and took a couple deep drags, then he extended his arm to let the smoke drift out of the room as much as possible. His voice became a bit murky: “Tao Ran, don’t you remember? We traced the security footage on accident.”
Tao Ran shuddered.
That was right. He Zhongyi carefully avoided all the security cameras that night. But he underestimated the fear of death that these rich people had – besides the obvious security cameras, Cheng Guang Mansion was equipped with a couple hidden cameras on the small alleys close by.
One of them caught his sight – the one hidden in the bird nest on a tree.
Both he and the murderer did not know of this forever-captured footage. And the police used this accidentally captured footage to find the bus station, and consequently, He Zhongyi’s whereabouts.
The Huashi Eastern District had too many security cameras: public, private, on the road, in the stores…if not knowing ahead of time the route that someone took, it would be nearly impossible to find the person via a blanket screening.
“He could pick someone as a witness and find an easy excuse like, ‘I drank some wine and couldn’t drive,’ and ride with that someone back to his office. At the same time, find an excuse to call some underlings over to work overnight —— it’s quite common at lawyers’ offices, and no one would feel that anything was strange. As the secondary partner, he has his own office. He could leave quietly while the others are busy working, use the scapegoat’s tie to kill He Zhongyi, hide the body, and then come back to the office and pretend he was back from the restroom.” Fei Du drew a complete circle on the paper: “Like that, he would have a complete alibi: ‘I was back to the office with so and so, and was working there since then.’ If it weren’t for your incidental discovery of He Zhongyi’s whereabouts, this alibi is almost impeccable.”
“He Zhongyi’s body was discovered at the Huashi Western District. Suspect No.1, Zhang Donglai, was at the Huashi Eastern District that day.” Luo Wenzhou instantly picked up his meaning between the lines, “The murderer threw us the tie as his cover-up, which is part of his “impeccable” alibi. For the next step, he would want to get rid of He’s mother – the person that would most likely reveal his true identity. At the same time, he’d want us to keep thinking that the murder happened at ‘Huashi District’.So the murderer probably took Mother He to Huashi District!”
Before he was finished, Tao Ran had already started contacting the team that went out to search for Mother He: “Attention, all officers. Focus the search on Huashi District. —— Fei Du, Huashi West or East?”
Fei Du pondered for a second, then answered: “East.”
Luo Wenzhou looked up, “Why?”
“It will be more shocking, visually. Gives you more pressure to arrest Zhang Donglai again. And…” Fei Du quietly added, “My intuition.”
Luo Wenzhou and Tao Ran both shot up.
Fei Du quietly looked up: “Can I come too?”
Luo Wenzhou hesitated, but then nodded: “Let’s go.”
Hi everyone! I am the new TL QuantumC. Hope you enjoyed this chapter! I absolutely love this book. Hope you do too 🙂