Chapter 49 Humbert Humbert Sixteen
TL: QuantumC, Editor: IsaLee
“The days of my youth, as I look back on them, seem to fly away from me in a flurry of pale repetitive scraps like those morning snow storms of used tissue paper that a train passenger sees whirling in the wake of the observation car.”
“Camarades! Let us power through tonight! I will reimburse all late-night take-outs and facial masks for the ladies. I’ll take care of your repentance letters to your wives too. Whatever it takes — pulling an all-nighter or flipping the Su house upside down — we have got to crack the case tonight with this lead. Either we find Qu Tong, or we find her body. Whichever happens, let it happen tonight.” After giving orders via intercom, Luo Wenzhou turned towards Fei Du. The latter had been staring at him curiously. “Young man, I think you are probably the reincarnation of the Broomstick God himself (1) — see what a ‘jolly’ birthday you’re having today. I guess I’m not able to drive you home anymore. Should I call you a cab or drop you by some hotel on the way?”
Fei Du did not answer. Instead, he asked, out of nowhere: “What do you guys usually eat when working overnight?”
“Some fancy gutter-oil meal (2), most likely.” Luo Wenzhou looked a bit bitter, “Occasionally, when folks want to treat their exhausted selves, they go up a notch and get something like McDonalds.”
Fei Du: “…”
”Obviously.” Luo Wenzhou turned the wheel to head towards the Bureau, while adding sourly, “How the hell am I supposed to afford the reimbursement if everyone is as picky as you? The hotel down the block: half a paycheck for a night. Should I drop you off there?”
“I prefer not. The smell of the incense in their lobby is too strong, and their rooms don’t have bathtubs.” Fei Du replied unabashedly to the face of the poor civil servant who still lived on food trucks and fast food chains. Then, ignoring the fiery hatred that he just kindled, Fei Du continued to order, “Keep going. There is one next to your Bureau with this so-called “six-star” service. It’ll do. I can walk there myself.”
Luo Wenzhou: “…”
He tried hard to keep it to himself but finally gave up: “Director Fei, all I see you do each day is wander around to kill time. Did Daddy leave you enough money to waste for a lifetime? What if it runs out? See who’s going to scoop the wind for you to eat then… You are no longer a child now. After tod…yesterday, you’re old enough to marry. It’s about time to stop fooling around!”
Fei Du rested his intact arm on the car door. He didn’t reply; he only kept smiling.
Luo Wenzhou saw nothing funny about it. The thought of him wasting his life worried him; the sight of his nonchalant smiles irritated him. If not for Fei Du’s broken arm, Luo Wenzhou would have already thrown the man out.
After a while, Fei Du asked again: “Are you sure you don’t need my help?”
“Are you contracted? Do you get paid?” After all, Luo Wenzhou did not let Fei Du walk there. Although his scolding went on, when they approached the Bureau, he exited the express lane and drove towards the landmark hotel, “What business have you here?”
“I heard that the ‘culprit’ you guys arrested was identified by the savage little girl. But besides her words, you don’t have any other evidence. Right?”
Luo Wenzhou answered expressionlessly: “No comment on the details.”
Before he finished, Fei Du continued calmly: “Oh, and he is suspicious because he has some ties to the child abduction case twenty years ago.”
Luo Wenzhou ground his teeth and thought to himself that after this case was settled, he had better find out which loose-lipped bastard on his team leaked the details.
“In other words, you do not have evidence. The girl is barely thirteen years old. Although she looks smart, her mental state is hardly stable. How much credibility will her testimony hold? On the other hand, the guy you took in has a perfect alibi that’s confirmed by the police. What if he insists on being innocent?” Fei Du slightly shrugged, “As for the little girl, I don’t think you’ll get anything else from her. After all, you can’t use any of the ‘interrogation tactics’ on her. Or were you planning on finding a psychologist who specializes in abnormal children at this hour of the day?”
Everything Fei Du said was true. They were exactly what had been giving Luo Wenzhou a headache too.
All of his moves last night were not based on any solid evidence. Thank God they successfully rescued Chen Chen in the end. Otherwise, any of the illegal break-ins or the permitless searches were enough to get him in trouble.
At that time, his car had already arrived at the hotel’s parking lot. Cold air from the AC swamped them, bringing the clean and crispy scent from the candles in the lobby. It did smell good.
Although it was long past midnight, there were still lobby boys at the front gate greeting them in high spirits.
Fei Du got off and was about to walk in. Suddenly, he remembered something and turned around. He bent down to knock on Luo Wenzhou’s window, then opened the door on the driver’s side.
“My phone.” He said, “Please pass it.”
“Oh.” Luo Wenzhou picked up the cell phone left on the passenger seat and was about to pass it over. However, as if dreading the wait, Fei Du also reached in to get it.
Because of the car accident, his shirt was a little messy and the collar hung loosely. From Luo Wenzhou’s angle he could see part of his bare chest. It was a bit on the lean side. However, underneath the pair of angular collar bones, it showed a restrained and quiet kind of strength. He didn’t wear any cologne today, but this man’s corrupt body had probably been seasoned with fragrances from all over the world. A faint but nice smell of a man escaped from his loose collar and, before Luo Wenzhou could savor it, disappeared into the air.
When Fei Du reached for his phone, he almost pressed on Luo Wenzhou’s body. However, he was away the next second. His finger casually brushed Luo Wenzhou’s palm as he pulled the phone from him.
Luo Wenzhou: “…”
Deep in the night, a male who liked other males, who was also young and single and extremely stressed, suddenly faced such outright flirtation. It was a tragedy comparable to a starving man watching the official Mechilin site’s late-night broadcasting.
“I should still be around in the morning. If you need anything, just ask.” Fei Du naturally stood up as if nothing had happened. He tucked the stupid cell phone into his pocket and continued, “I could talk to that girl for you. Although I am not an expert in troubled teenagers, I am an expert at being one.”
Luo Wenzhou waved his hand in exhaustion: “Go mind your own business.”
When Fei Du really left, Luo Wenzhou parked the car on the street side and smoked two cigarettes in a row. Finally, he got rid of the awkward boner. When starting the car again to head back to the Bureau he thought to himself helplessly. For the ‘normal’ people who were busy with work, there was still the “blind dating” route to take care of their needs. But for those with a specific taste like him it was just too inconvenient.
Back when he was fresh out of school, young master Luo fooled around for a couple years like Fei Du. However, soon he realized that while fooling around was easy, finding a serious partner was hard. The so-called befuddled life boiled down to four simple steps: passion, habituation, boredom, and disgust. Not to mention that as his career took off, work started taking up more and more of his time. So Luo Wenzhou gradually took up an old man’s ‘sun-set’ lifestyle consisting of working and cat petting.
However, an old man’s lifestyle didn’t sit well with a young man’s body. His physical self and spiritual self sometimes had opposing needs. Luo Wenzhou thought grumpily that if this keeps going he might end up rutting in front of Luo Yiguo’s fluffy tail one day…
He floored the gas pedal. The car roared and bounced toward the bright lights of the Bureau.
“Captain Luo, Xu Wenchao has been summoned. He is in the interrogation room. Su Luozhan is in another room and Xiao Lang is with her. Do you want to…”
Before he finished, Luo Wenzhou’s hasty steps stopped. He saw the hunched back of a man in the hallway.
Guo Heng put out the cigarette butt and slowly got on his feet. He tried to stand upright, but was still hunched.
Luo Wenzhou asked: “Why did you…”
“You went looking for me this afternoon. Was it because the old case has been reopened?” Guo Heng looked at him desperately, “Was it? My daughter…hasn’t been found for so many years. I heard a girl was just rescued, alive. Is it true? Did you catch the suspect? Can we get anything valuable for Fei Fei’s case this time?”
The old man’s turbid eyes were lit up by the soul fire that Lao Yang described, too bright to look into.
Luo Wenzhou didn’t know what to say. He dodged the questions awkwardly: “We will do our best, I promise.”
He escaped from the conversation as quickly as he could, but he couldn’t escape Guo Heng’s eyes. He could feel those eyes following him, about to burn right through his back.
Meanwhile in the interrogation room, Xu Wenchao, who had been summoned twice within a single day and this time as the “suspect” rather than a “witness”, looked very gloomy. He was arrested at home in the middle of the night. His face was tired from a lack of sleep. Even his chin became scruffier.
This time, he was far less patient and polite. His hands were placed on the knees with fingers locked. His face looked pale and neurotic.
“I didn’t do it.” Xu Wenchao sounded helpless and innocent but his words were thorny: “Let me say it one more time. I did not abduct any girl. I did not kill anyone. You’ve seen the footage from my dashboard camera. You’ve tapped my phone and followed me, legally or not. Let me ask this: with such an extreme violation of a citizen’s privacy and rights, have you found any evidence of murder?”
The officer in the room answered coldly: “Su Luozhan abducted a girl from her school, tortured her, and attempted to kill her. She called you two times while on-scene, then identified you in front of everyone. What do you say to that?”
Xu Wenchao sat back and replied with his signature soft voice: “A phone call, a child’s accusation, and I am now a murderer. The saying goes, ‘If you want to condemn someone you can always find faults in him.’ Today I finally understand what it means.”
“Why would Su Luozhan call you? Why would she frame you?”
Xu Wenchao paused. He quietly looked up. Behind the screen, Luo Wenzhou got a good look at those eyes. He suddenly had a very hapless feeling. This man was too calm and too sure. It was as if he still held the most important card that no one knew of.
“Because I was her mother’s lover.” Xu Wenchao said, “Yes. I didn’t mention it this afternoon…because I didn’t want any unnecessary trouble. I have loved Su Xiaolan since I was young. But she didn’t like me. She’d rather live a miserable life than accept my love. Only at the dusk of her life did she decide to spare me some warmth, yet I cherished it like gold. I even wanted to marry her… If not because of her early death, I would now be Su Luozhan’s stepfather. Since I am not, it’s hard for me to legally adopt her. I am still trying to find another way. At the same time, I provided her everything that she needed. She calls me when some emergency happens, so what?”
“But you did not pick up.”
“I did not. Because I knew that my phone was tapped.” Xu Wenchao answered frankly, “Even if the call wasn’t from her — even if it were from some delivery boy or housing agent — I wouldn’t pick it up either. Officer, I still have this last resort of freedom under the heavy pressure of public power, no?”
“So you’re saying that Su Luozhan framed you?”
“I don’t know why that child would say such things. If she really said it, then I am heartbroken. Her mom was always negligent. Comparatively, I consider myself a better parent-to-be. She wasn’t very well disciplined when she was younger. Sometimes when her behavior crossed the line, I scolded her. Maybe she was being rebellious.” Xu Wenchao paused, then added, “Or maybe she didn’t know what she was talking about. Maybe someone was leading her.”
The other officer in the room pounded the table: “Cut the bullshit! According to the surviving victim, Su Luozhan said this after calling you: ‘If he is not coming, I can do it myself.’ You also hired cleaning ladies to take care of the old Su apartment, and you paid for its water and electricity bills! Why on earth would anyone maintain a vacant old apartment that’s about to be demolished? You were obviously up to something!”
Xu Wenchao shook his head: “Maintaining an old apartment, abduction and murder…where is the causal connection between the two? According to your logic, the municipal office should be responsible for all the criminal cases in the city then?”
“Didn’t he say that his brain was messed up by a fever?” Luo Wenzhou raised one eyebrow in surprise, “He seems very slippery to me. Or does his retardation come and go?”
“Captain Luo, if he insists on his innocence, then we really don’t have any other evidence. What then? Put him on a lie detector?”
“Go and check his bank accounts, credit cards, deeds, and car registrations…Take his picture to the car rental companies…and check his acquaintances — the car he drove that night was probably borrowed. His own dashboard camera was normal, but it only means that he didn’t drive the car that’s under his own name. I don’t believe he could hide a four-wheeled machine so easily…“
Before Luo Wenzhou finished, he heard the officer in the interrogation room ask: “Let me ask you one more time. Where were you on the evening of the twenty-seventh?”
“I was at home, reading.” Xi Wenchao kept a perfectly straight face, “I am a freelancer and I work from home. I read at home all the time.”
“If so, then why did you rent the car?”
And that was pure bluffing.
If Xu Wenchao did not drive his own car in Xiling that day, then it made the most sense to rent one. Because borrowing from a friend or secretly owning a car under someone else’s name was easily traceable. On the other hand, there were many small car rental companies with sloppy registration procedures. Renting from them, or better — renting from an illegal rental company — would be a far safer choice, and the most probable choice for Xu Wenchao.
Luo Wenzhao stopped talking. Arms crossed, he listened to Xu Wenchao’s reply carefully.
To his surprise, Xu Wenchao calmly raised a brow and looked authentically surprised: “Sir, what are you talking about?”
“On the evening of the 27th, you followed a school bus from Xiling and planned to abduct one of the eleven girls on the bus. However, someone abducted the whole bus before you. A girl named Qu Tong escaped, ran into you and Su Xiaolan, and sought your help. She got into your car, not knowing she was out of the frying pan and into the fire. “
Xu Wenchao: “What a…”
The interrogation officer cut him off harshly: “The security cameras outside the museum recorded your licence plate. What do you say to that?”
“Sir,” Xu Wenchao asked calmly, “May I ask when this happened on the 27th?”
The officer replied coldly: “Why don’t you ask yourself?”
“I really don’t know.” Xu Wenchao slightly raised his hands, and shook his head, “Alright. If you are set on bluffing me, you’re not going to tell me the time. But if this happened before midnight, then I wouldn’t have the time to do it. You know where my home is. From my place to the Xiling area, it would take at least three hours…and that’s not considering the traffic and the weather. At around 8:30 pm on the 27th, I called for take-out from home. My order number and the delivery time can all be traced. If I am lucky, the delivery boy might still remember me.”
Luo Wenzhou’s heart jolted. He realized that his bad feeling had come true.
“I suggest that you verify what I said as soon as possible to prove my innocence.” Xu Wenchao looked down at his watch, “Looks like I will need to spend the night here. May I ask when I can speak to a lawyer? Oh, and…although I still don’t know what exactly Su Luozhan has done, may I ask you to please be gentle with her? After all, she is still very young. If necessary, I am willing to take on the responsibility as her guardian.”