Chapter 25: Julien Twenty Four
Translator: QuantumC Editor: Mochimochi
First Published on Ainushi.
Name: Wang Xiujuan
Level of Education: Elementary school
Such were the basic demographic information of the mother of the 5 -20 murder case victim.
Her husband died in an accident ten years ago. She suffered from a chronic illness which prevented her from holding onto a regular job. Consequently, she relied on the scarce income from renting out her quarter acre of farmland, supplementing it with braiding and selling straw baskets. Before arriving at Yancheng City, the furthest that she had ever been was the hospital in the province capital.
The very first time she traveled to Yancheng City in her lifetime was to bid farewell to her only son.
Nothing else about her life was particularly worth noting.
As for the moments of happiness and sorrow, or the bits and pieces of hope and despair in her life, none were the subject of any question, nor did they really leave any traces.
“Keep screening every suspicious vehicle that has passed through the neighborhood. Can we track the location of her cell phone?”
“Captain Luo, we found the cell phone in a trash bin near the entrance of the Bureau.”
Luo Wenzhou pressed the intercom, but then decided to let go without giving any command because he had nothing to say. Understandably, she’d ditch the phone since no one else would’ve needed to contact her through that number, except for the mysterious man that “abducted” her.
He pressed the gas somewhat impetuously: “But why? What’s the motivation? How come a spur-of-moment crime has so many follow-ups? Honestly, I’m a little wary about your inferences now… Besides, if Zhao Haochang really was the murderer, then why would he move the body all the way to the Huashi Western District? If he wanted to frame Zhang Donglai, why not just leave the body in front of the Cheng Guang Mansion?”
The one next to him made no sound. Through the corner of his eye, Luo Wenzhou saw that Fei Du seemed to be lost in his thoughts. He was staring out the windshield like a statue, except for the finger that had been steadily tapping a 4/4 rhythm on his knee.
Luo Wenzhou gave him a blunt nudge: “Hey, I’m talking to you!”
Fei Du: “…….”
Throughout his not-so-long lifetime, no one had yet dared to mess with Mr. Fei’s expensive head – let alone give it a shove.
For a second, he was unsure about how to react – he simply turned around and shot an icy glare at this brazen Homo sapien.
Luo Wenzhou had long been accustomed to Luo Yiguo’s daily murder schemes against him, so he didn’t mind the exposure to some additional “gamma ray”. He continued: “Is there any possibility that the one who dropped He Zhongyi’s body in the West district isn’t the one who killed him?”
Fei Du’s brows imperceptibly rose a bit. Finally, just as Luo Wenzhou was about to accept that he had sunk into another trance, Fei Du spoke again, tersely: “Possibly.”
Luo Wenzhou: “Which one is more possible? One suspect or two?”
“Depends if there is other evidence.” Fei Du’s malfunctioning circadian clock seemed to have finally rebooted. Looking a bit tired, he lowered his head and massaged his nose bridge, “From what I have gathered thus far, both are possible.”
“If the murderer and the mover of the body are two separate people, it brings us loads of new suspects…” Luo Wenzhou said, “That aside, if they are the same person, then what’s his logic behind moving the body to the Western District?”
Fei Du opened up his eyes. Those once perfectly folded double-eyelids seemed to have been tugged deeper to become thicker, heavily resting above his pupils.
He gave it some thought, then replied gently: “We’ve already deduced that the murderer knows He Zhongyi. With murder cases, the first step the police usually takes is to screen the victim’s social relations. So, as an acquaintance, he is in danger of being interrogated – if there are things about him that cannot see daylight, they’ll probably be uncovered during the investigation. Why move the body to Western District? Think about it this way. If not for those morbid vloggers… the body might’ve never been discovered. ”
He could have been like Chen Yuan: even if his dead body were exposed in bare daylight, no one would have cared or dared to investigate.
Fei Du paused for a second, then continued: “And IF things go wrong and the first ‘firewall’ is down – the body gets discovered and the police starts the standard investigation – then he needs to set up firewall number two: Zhang Donglai. Zhang Donglai had a conflict with the victim recently, and he belongs to the pool of “distant acquaintances” – the ones that you guys could dig out easily. Once this person is deemed “highly suspicious”, the police will focus all investigative resources on him, and stop, or slow down the search for the victim’s other social relations. Due to Zhang Donglai’s special status, regardless of whether you guys turn a blind eye on him or not, you’d get into a muddy situation with the press, the public, and your superiors. You’d have no time to ask who else the country boy knew.”
Luo Wenzhou was silenced – that was their exact thought process and investigation procedure.
As if sitting for too long and getting uncomfortable, Fei Du glanced at the fast-rescinding scenery mindlessly. The hovering overpasses were glazed by the army of street lights, looking more elegant and intricate. The Huashi Eastern District had already started to sparkle for another sleepless night in the distance. Perhaps it was his hallucination, but that evening, the mammoth LED screen of the Sky Screen Corridor seemed to be brighter than ever.
Luo Wenzhou peeked at him, then suddenly asked: “You Okay?”
Fei Du kept a blank look on his face and asked back: “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Luo Wenzhou pondered, then decided to be frank: “Then why else would you be so good-tempered with me all of a sudden?”
After a short silence, Fei Du answered: “Sorry Cap’, I didn’t know that you liked it rough.”
Then, a much longer silence. Both of them realized something was not right with that sentence.
Fei Du thought: Why oh why… did I have nothing else to do?
The realization dawned upon Luo Wenzhou a step slower, but it was all the same: that little bastard just flirted with him!
And with a freakin’ mocking tone!
“Calculating the police’s moves, abducting the woman directly from the Bureau – if we forgo the hypothesis of a group crime, I think this man must have a criminal history.” Fei Du looked away and stared at the approaching landscapes in the Huashi Eastern District, pretending that he had short-term memory loss.
“What kind of history?”
“Something undiscovered. Only those buried and hidden crimes would foster such crazy and self-indulging arrogance.”
A long string of police cars rushed into the central business district, then split up into multiple groups to search the neighborhoods of the Cheng Guang Mansion, the Central Square, and places where He Zhongyi used to deliver packages.
“Heck,” Lang Qiao’s voice seeped through the noisy walkie talkie. “Is Mr. Fei there too? Gosh, do you people always come out and play at this hour of the night?”
Fei Du was surprised too. Except for the bar district and the couple of private club houses, the area would have normally quieted down by this time already. Even during the weekends, it was not typical to see so many people out.
“Wenzhou,” Tao Ran was connected, “the surveillance crew spotted a suspicious car, with a tag, probably from some sketchy rental company. They went to talk with the manager just now and found that they were really sloppy on following procedures. They didn’t even notice that the renter was using someone else’s ID—”
“Whose ID did he use?”
“He Zhongyi.” Tao Ran sighed, “About fifteen minutes ago, that rental car drove to the CBD of the Eastern District……Hsss……”
A sudden outbreak of noisy cheers cut off Tao Ran’s report.
Luo Wenzhou street-parked the car, got off, and saw that the “sky screen” was suddenly lit with transfixing light and color. Then, a gigantic countdown appeared: five minutes.
The “sky screen” was in fact a huge LED screen, half of which hung from the skyscraper nearby like a flowing blanket. At about three stories high, it started curving side-wise and gradually turned parallel to the ground, forming a large hallway that was wrapped with LED screens — all the way from the Central Square to the buildings closeby, this extended scroll of color and light was impossible to miss.
Someone explained over the intercom: “Boss, some say that they are doing a final run-through for the closing ceremony at the Olympic center tonight, and the lookout deck on top of the Economy and Trade building is the best viewing spot for it. Over here, all the LEDs will broadcast the rehearsal live too.”
“Whatever.” Luo Wenzhou said, “How did the search go? Anything from the focal areas?”
“Nothing from near the Cheng Guang Mansion. We asked several security guards, but no one saw anything. We couldn’t get the security footage – they said that it’s private property and we have to have the proper papers for it.”
“Too many people on the Square. We are asking one by one.”
“The coffee-shops here are all closed. No one is here… We are now checking his usual delivery route.”
“Captain Luo, we haven’t been able to locate that car. We are now expanding the search area.”
Luo Wenzhou’s ear was instantly crammed with reports from all different directions. He quickly filtered out the relevant information and was about to give out new orders. At this time, Fei Du suddenly jumped out of the car, eyes fixated on the countdown above their head with a ghastly look – it had already turned to 4 minutes and 40 seconds.
Luo Wenzhou was taken aback by the look on his face: “What is it?”
“Drawing attention by suicide – it means that the greater the audience the better. Typical choices for locations are landmarks or places with high people traffic.” Fei Du’s eyes grew wider and wider, “How to do it in front of many eyes but at the same time be sure that no one will intervene?”
Luo Wenzhou raised his head up sharply. The Central Business District of the Eastern District was filled with towering skyscrapers. They shot up into the sky, carving it into tiny irregular checker boxes. Looking up from below, one could easily get daunted and lightheaded. The background of the countdown screen was filled with animation of fireworks, crushing onto the dwindling time of the countdown clock.
“There are more than a handful of skyscrapers here, not to mention the regular buildings…” Luo Wenzhou yanked Fei Du over by the shoulder, “Which one would it be?”
Fei Du’s face looked so ghastly as if it was covered with white paint.
Luo Wenzhou realized that he wasn’t being sensible – After all, Fei Du was not omniscient.
He grabbed the walkie-talkie and made a dart for the most conspicuous Economy and Trade building: “Attention, all groups! Search for all the rooftops in this area. Now!”
Fei Du had a strong feeling that something terrible was going to happen once the countdown hit zero.
For a split second, he froze there.
Luo Wenzhou didn’t even get to shut the car door. He was already nowhere to be seen. But with less than five minutes, what could they find?
All of a sudden, the woman’s tear-drenched yet smiling, face re-appeared in front of his eyes. The face lingered, and gradually blurred and blended into something sinister deep in his memory. That summer, that extravagant yet lonely mansion –
Right then, a screeching sound from car-break drew him back to the reality: the police that had been searching the Chen Guang Mansion had arrived. Tao Ran led a large group of officers rushing towards here. He was yelling something over the walkie-talkie while running and dispatching the officers to search the nearby buildings.
The count down was at 4:00 … 3:59 …
Fei Du suddenly took out his phone and punched in a number: “It’s me. Does the Economy and Trade Center have ownership over the Sky-screen corridor? Give me their manager Mr. Li. Hurry!”
The bar district was as bright as the day. Many customers heard of the light show and moved out towards the Central Square. Raising glasses and cheering for the countdown, they were having a good time. On the other hand, the police were searching and running like crazy –– there was no time to wait for the elevators. They could only take the emergency stairs, run all the way up to the roof, search with flashlights, and then repeat.
The woman stood somewhere up high. The man who sent her here had already left. Or perhaps, was he was watching her from somewhere?
She found him a little familiar, but didn’t spare much thought on who he really was. The bit of familiarity actually put her more at ease.
Although it was already summer time, the wind on the rooftop at midnight was still chilling. She looked down. From the birdseye view, all the blinking LEDs and the laser beams of the central business district made her dizzy.
“How much electricity does this need?” Her thoughts roamed free for a while.
At home, she always tried to save electricity as much as possible. When it got dark in the evening she would move to the backyard and do the brushings and cleanings under the moonlight. She had never seen such a lavishly-lit evening.
She looked at the countdown on the screen again: “1:05 … 1:04 … ”
Bending down heavily, she picked up a large board from the ground. One side of it wrote all of her grievances, while the other side was attached to two sturdy cotton strings. They allowed her to wear the board on her back like a pair of wings.
She had no idea whether the board could survive the fall, so she kept another version of the grievance in her pocket — it had all been written and typed out for her. In terms of what was actually on there, she could only understand bits and pieces, thanks to what was left of her reading and writing skills from her early years of schooling.
The first digit of the countdown quickly turned to “zero”. The other digits were dwindling swiftly as well.
The woman gritted her teeth, fastened her heavy “wings”, and stepped over the safety fence——