Chapter 27 Julien Twenty-six

TL: QuantumC, Editor: Isalee

First Published on Ainushi. 

Those skyscrapers had frigid-colored façades and sharp geometric figures, towering over pedestrians like suffocating giants. Their lobbies were covered with shiny cement bricks polished to perfection, and they were guarded by lobby boys and security guards who would salute every passerby with polite yet aloof gazes.

Each building had a different elevator floor plan ­­–– and followed their own protocols. Some elevators only stopped at odd-numbered floors, and some only at even. Some only allowed one-way traffic, yet others required a card-swipe for authorization. A first-time visitor could easily get confused by these rules and feel like an unwelcome outsider.

But Twin Tower was an exception. Despite several renovations, the building was as familiar to him as the back of his hand, because he had worked there as an intern for six months. The internship didn’t end well for him though –– they would rather keep the Ivy League graduate even though he only knew the Common law system.

Things were different now. Those lawyers with pretty resumes were decorative at best, only capable of handling regular cases. When it came to highly-specialized areas, they had to seek his consultation. In this building, “little Zhao the intern” had already grown into “Master Zhao”.

Yet he still clearly remembered every hallway and every hidden janitor’s closet in this building. Even when the lights were out, he could confidently dodge all the security cameras.

Unfortunately for him however, the odds were not in his favor this time.

He was hiding in the crowd, ready to enjoy the “sensational performance” from the “sky screen” when Fei Du suddenly interrupted the program. Outraged, he was almost certain that this was some kind of despicable and tasteless event-marketing –– perhaps to help out his own pack, or perhaps purely for business reasons.

These people held unimaginable wealth and social resources, even if most of them were worthless scums who dozed off at day-to-day meetings and were muddled by the most elementary reports. With the help of countless professionals living on their paychecks, as soon as they made some obvious decisions or struck an easy deal, they would be regarded as the “wise exemplars of the generation”.

A policeman and several security guards who volunteered to help came over: “Excuse us! Attention, please! The police are conducting a security screening on the rooftops. Please stay away from the tall buildings as there may be safety hazards. Thank you very much for your understanding! Thank you! Thanks for your cooperation! It’s for everyone’s safety…”

The crowd stirred and slowly moved away. No one noticed that a cultivated, cleanly-shaved man had turned around and disappeared into the darkness.

The police had come to dismiss the people here. This meant that they had already started searching this area, or were at least about to. However, that stupid woman still hadn’t jumped yet.

He didn’t know if she got scared all of a sudden, or if the cheap performance of that pretty-faced boy had fooled her. Regardless, he had back-up plans –– the rooftop of Tower A only had one side that faced Central Square. He had made some “arrangements” on the security fence. So, even if she hesitated, the loose fence would “make up her mind” for her.

His plan was supposed to be perfect. But why didn’t it work? What went wrong?

He had to go back to figure it out.

He did some simple calculations in his head, and shrewdly picked the side entrance of Tower B by the coffee shop. Without a hitch, he found the emergency exit staircases that were reserved for delivery boys, and scrambled up to the eighth floor –– there was an air corridor connecting the two towers, one end of which led right to the eighth floor’s emergency exit.

There were security cameras on both ends of the air corridor, but that was fine since one side of the corridor was decorated by a plant wall –– one could easily go behind the hanging vines to avoid the cameras. Even though he knew that all the cameras were dead due to the power outage, it was better to err on the safe side.

The power outage was indeed a gift from above, he thought.

Proud and pleased, he walked briskly through the plant wall. Unknowingly, the wind from his movements blew up some leaves.

The vines shielded him from the camera. Little did he know that as the leaves quivered, one of the static camera-heads suddenly turned by a tiny angle ––

Luo Wenzhou went down with the EMTs and sent Wang Xiujuan onto an ambulance. Then, turning around, he caught Tao Ran and some other officers escorting a clean-faced man into a police car. As if feeling Luo’s glances, the man, whom he had met once, cast an infuriated glare at him.

Tao Ran gestured to Luo Wenzhou, waving an evidence bag in his hand. A pair of gloves were in the bag.

Luo Wenzhou nodded, lit a cigarette, and measured up the jail-bird-to-be from head to toe.

The man raged: “I only went back to get a document. How could you take in a man like this? Have you got any evidence at all? Hah? I guess the police nowadays just casually grab a scapegoat when they can’t solve a case. Let go of me you savages… you don’t want to know the price of this shirt!”

“Ouch… an expensive one…” with the cigarette between his lips, Luo Wenzhou mocked, “I am so intimidated. Looks like we poor schmucks need to borrow some money from Daddy Fei first.”

Seeing him shoved into the police car, Luo Wenzhou blew him a kiss: “Bye-bye.”

Before he finished, a hand bluntly snapped away his cigarette.

Lang Qiao’s makeup was already all over the place, exposing the dark circles under her eyes from running around all night. With those accentuating shades, the eyes seemed to have taken up all the space on her face. She tossed the cigarette into a garbage can a couple steps away, and pointed to the ambulance: “You get in there too.”

Luo Wenzhou: “…”

“Look at yourself… you’re like a moving canvas.” Lang Qiao scolded him impatiently, “Hush and hurry. Get in the ambulance, and stay in the hospital tomorrow.”

Luo Wenzhou sighed: “My sweetheart, are you taking over Daddy’s empire now? Not so soon! You are still too young.”

Lang Qiao could almost feel the flame bursting out from her throat. Poking at the self-appointed Emperor, she stuttered: “You…”

“Okay, enough joking around.” Luo Wenzhou cut her short, “Do you know where Mr. Fei is?”

Lang Qiao’s mind briefly went blank. She unconsciously looked up at the “sky screen”, only to find that it had already gone back to the regular broadcasting of the closing-ceremony rehearsal. The ceremony was finishing up with a dazzling, almost gaudy light show. But compared to the real-time “action movie” everyone had just witnessed, it was obviously short of excitement. The crowd on the square had mostly lost their interest and were busy tweeting and Wechatting about the previous event.

“I don’t know… I haven’t seen him since we started the searches. Why do you …” Lang Qiao looked around for the missing Mr. Fei, then turned back to Luo Wenzhou, only to find that the latter was already gone.

Luo Wenzhou grabbed someone else’s coat from a police car in passing, and casually threw it on to cover his bloody shirt. He dialed Fei Du’s number. The call went through but was not picked up, so Luo Wenzhou strode toward the Economy and Trade Center. He went to the control room first, but the only ones left there were a group of cameramen who were having their late night take-outs. They told him that Fei Du had already left.

After getting Fei Du’s whereabouts from them, Luo Wenzhou went directly after him and kept dialing his number. At last, he heard Fei Du’s signature ringtone “You raise me up” drifting faintly from the back of the building.

Luo Wenzhou followed the sound, and discovered a small garden surrounded by shrubs in the back. A couple of stone chairs and tables were hidden in the middle. Looking up from the chairs, one could see a corner of the “sky screen”. There were no streetlights.

Fei Du sat on one of the stone stools. Surprisingly, he didn’t mind the dirt at all. He leaned on the table with the cell-phone resting on the side playing the ringtone like a loudspeaker.

Luo Wenzhou hung up and walked over: “And here is His Majesty, enjoying my music offering.”

Fei Du didn’t bother to reply to his provocation. Eyes closed, he looked as if he had fallen asleep.

Luo Wenzhou sat down stiffly beside him: “Don’t you want to check on her?”

Fei Du spoke indolently: “You’ve gotten her back, no?”

“The suspect loosened the security fence up there,” said Luo Wenzhou, “and we were this close to screwing it all up.”

Fei Du’s tapping fingers missed a beat. He opened his eyes, which coincidentally caught the eyes of Luo Wenzhou.

Luo Wenzhou looked as pale as a ghost. His back was tensely arched into an awkward posture. Sitting on the stool, he almost seemed paralyzed.

Nevertheless, his eyes were lit by something warm and bright. The dancing fire in those eyes was intense, yet not at all provocative.

For a split second, Fei Du felt that this almost-familiar man had turned into a stranger all over again.

Luo Wenzhou had well-defined facial features and a well-maintained physique. It was hard to tell his age – perhaps thirty, but he could easily pass for twenty as well – yet Fei Du knew that Luo was nothing like this in his twenties.

Back then, Luo Wenzhou was a real spoiled brat. Flamboyant and sharp-tongued, he knew nothing about the phrase, “saving face for the others”. His looks reflected his character then – pretty looking, yet lacking a certain gravity.

The Luo Wenzhou today was a stone statue polished by time – the ambiguous outlines had been accentuated, and the rootless soul had been grounded. Deep down, there was almost a trace of tenderness.

Luo Wenzhou slightly adjusted his sitting posture: “What you were saying on the sky screen – was that all true?”

Fei Du replied indifferently while raising one brow: “Of course not. I was just blending myself into her story, trying to make an emotional connection.”

Luo Wenzhou hesitated –– As for carrying out a serious conversation with Fei Du, he had very little experience. They almost always jumped right into fight-mode. For a while, he couldn’t manage to think of the appropriate words to say. Finally, he decided to just be frank.

Luo Wenzhou: “I investigated your father before.”

This was no surprise. A woman died silently at home, and her only son insisted that it was not a suicide. Under such circumstances, the police would almost certainly have looked beyond the forensic evidence and would have done an investigation on the close relationships of the deceased. Therefore, Fei Du threw an impatient look at Luo Wenzhou, hoping that he could cut the crap.

“In the process, I found that another group was also following him. I interrogated one of them. They were a bunch of so-called ‘private detectives’. I assume you sent them?”

Fei Du’s patience had worn out. He stood up and was about to leave.

“There’s more. One time you did your homework at Tao Ran’s apartment and left some unused scratch paper with pressure marks. I traced it with a pencil and found that it was your father’s schedule. This was two years after your mother’s death. I thought to myself, ‘For two years, has he been following his father’s whereabouts the whole time?'” Luo Wenzhou disregarded Fei Du’s annoyance and kept going, “Frankly, I found the whole thing disturbing. Especially when your father later had that accident…”

Upon hearing this, Fei Du’s steps paused. He was right next to Luo Wenzhou at this moment. Silently, he started smiling.

He lowered his head at Luo Wenzhou, looking a bit dangerous and dangerously tantalizing at the same time: “You think it was me?”

Luo Wenzhou looked directly into those eyes – the eyes that were filled with peach blossoms – and thought to himself: This kid has really got an unabashedly pretty face.

Fei Du bent down slightly, resting one finger on his lips as he whispered: “Quite possibly, Captain. I mean, think about it. Regardless of whether he’s dead or in a vegetative state, I would be the only heir to his humongous wealth. If only…”

Before Fei Du finished, Luo Wenzhou forcefully ended the show-off. He grabbed Fei Du by the collar and yanked him down, then slapped him on the forehead.

The palm was so hot that Fei Du felt as if he’d been struck by a soldering iron. Shocked, he stumbled back.

Luo Wenzhou: “I was being serious. Why do you have to be such a dick all the time?”

Fei Du recovered from the shock and angrily pulled back his collar – Who’s being a dick here?!

Yet Luo Wenzhou continued: “But today I suddenly felt that a man who carves himself up in front of everyone just to save a complete stranger shouldn’t be someone dangerous. I wanted to apologize to you for my prejudice for all these years.”

Fei Du was a bit dumbfounded by the sudden turn of events. Yet before he could hatch a mocking smile, he felt a sudden pull on his collar again: Luo Wenzhou fell heavily forward onto his chest.

At once, Fei Du felt as if he had been wrapped by a steamingly-hot electric blanket. After hesitating for a second, he probed with the back of his hand on Luo Wenzhou’s forehead to check his temperature: burning.

He then picked up Luo’s coat by the corner and peeked inside, but quickly turned away. One glimpse was more than enough – he was about to throw up.

After holding onto this weird posture for a while, Fei Du finally calmed his churning stomach down. Turning back to face Luo Wenzhou, he stared at him with a stone face as if contemplating whether this piece of meat was better for stewing or roasting.

Then, perhaps concluding that this man was too “thick-skinned” to taste any good, Fei Du curled his lips and bent down to pick him up. However, it was hard to find a comfortable position: he did not want to carry him on the back, nor did he want to carry him with his arms. After trying to tug on Luo Wenzhou’s belt to throw him across his shoulder, Fei Du realized that this piece of meat was a bit too heavy for that.

Finally, Fei Du put down the unconscious Luo Wenzhou on a stone chair, took out his dying cell phone, and dialed Tao Ran’s number.

“Hello. Is it 110?” he said snappishly, “I’ve run into an old man who’s passed out. How do I turn him in to the police?”

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