Chapter 56 Humbert Humbert Twenty-three
TL: Cici, Editor: IsaLee
Synopsis: With a smile, he reached out and knocked on the table: “Mr. Xu, can we talk now?”
In the dimly lit room, all places that were applied with luminol reagent glowed with faint fluorescence. The floors, roofs, door slits… they were all connected together by the sheen. It was everywhere in the room, like a dizzying wallpaper.
There were un-cleaned old bloodstains in the gap of the removed sofa, which looked particularly shocking on the spotless light-colored floor. God knew for how many years they had been waiting in injustice, and now they finally were seen in the sun again.
The walls were covered with soundproofing materials, and a photo wall was hung in the middle of the living room. Photos of the beautiful countryside and natural scenery were staggered on display there, giving the vibe of an elegant artistic atmosphere — if not for the “fluorescent film” covering it.
There was a hunk of the “Shepherd’s Picture” around one meter in height in the bedroom. A technician stared at it for a while, feeling something off about it. He took it down, checked it, and found a camera inside. The lens just looked out from the shepherd’s eyes, which made the smile of the girl seem mysterious.
In the locked storage room next to the bedroom, there were various knives and ropes that needed forensic identification …
None of the above, however, was as creepy as the enlarged picture on the south-facing window.
“Look at this, Vice Captain Tao. This window is old-fashioned. It’s divided into two layers, inside and outside. There is a layer of those opaque curtains commonly used in hotels in the middle. And they pasted the photo on the outside of the inner layer of glass.” The technicians told Tao Ran, “So, even if a solar storm erupts outside, it will be blocked by this UV-resistant curtain, and no strong light will penetrate the photo paper … but the way they pasted this photo is really interesting!”
The photo was enlarged to a delicate and precise proportion, and the people who stood in this room would be in a dark environment. Days and nights were indistinguishable. At first glance, one might mistake the photo with a real night view outside the glass window – the street was thin and narrow, and the old buildings were sparsely lined up in rows. Dim road lamps were all located at least a hundred meters away. Flowers and weeds grew freely in the flower beds. Somehow, a small area in it was withered. Looking from above, a faint light could be seen through the dead branches. Light from some unknown source reflected to the basement looming in the flower bed. A fuzzy girl’s face showed on the small window in the corner of the basement.
This was important evidence — two technicians stepped forward carefully and removed the photo with the glass.
Tao Ran opened the blackout curtains and outer window. Then his pupils shrank at that moment. The white fur sweat that resulted from running under the sun suddenly disappeared like a tide.
Tao Ran found out that the pile of rulers and stones that they used to represent Wu Guangchuan’s house outside the window was at the exact same spot as the corresponding position in the photo after closing the window.
“Vice Captain Tao! Vice Captain Tao!” An intern who was left to interrogate the property manager ran in hurriedly, and began exclaiming when he was walking in the corridor, “The property manager admitted it! They said that this house is indeed a group renting, but the tenants do not seem to live here, maybe they are white-collar workers working nearby. They might just come to take a nap or something. The property manager said they don’t cook very often, and they don’t use water and electricity very often, so there should be no potential security issues, so… Oh god!”
“Be careful, this is the crime scene!”
“Don’t blunder in, stay away!”
When the young man saw this “spectacular” room at the door, he was dumbfounded and was scolded by his colleagues.
“No potential security issues,” Tao Ran stared out the window without blinking. “Can we try to contact the homeowner?”
“The o-owner is abroad. We just made a phone call, and it’s an invalid number, so we have to think of other ways.” And this reminded the intern, “Oh, yes, Vice-Captain Tao, the parking space for 201 is occupied. There is an SUV!”
The traffic department quickly retrieved the owner information of the car — it was neither the owner of Room 201 nor anyone related to the case. The registered owner was an old man who came from nowhere. His registered residence was still in Yancheng City, yet he had moved somewhere else many years ago. After receiving a phone call from the police, the old man was baffled at first. And then when the police asked about the license plate, he sounded alarmed.
After further questioning, they learned that although the license plate was his, the car was not.
The old man had gone to live with his children after he had retired. The license plate was not needed anymore. Taking advantage of the fact that it was hard to get a license plate these days, he rented it out privately for extra cash every year without any trouble. He only needed to appear during the annual inspection, and the renter reimbursed even the toll fees.
“Will there… Will there be a fine? Or will you revoke my driving license?” The license plate owner kept explaining, “Comrade, I didn’t really get much money, only a little over two thousand a year. If you don’t believe me, I can show you the contract …”
“You leased out your personal license plate illegally, and signed a contract for it?” Tao Ran felt utterly speechless. “Who signed the contract with you?”
“Oh… It was a woman, called Su… Su what? Oh yes, Su Xiaolan!”
Tao Ran hung up the phone and turned around: “Track this car from the day Qu Tong disappeared to present!”
“Vice Captain Tao, this car was not equipped with a GPS and a driving recorder, so it can only be monitored by the traffic monitor network – the day before Qu Tong’s family received the recording, the car left the city from the South Airport Highway and then entered the Yangang Highway. After two hours, it got off the highway and entered the national highway, and after another half hour, it drove out of the national highway and left the monitoring area. It returned on the same route the next day. It never entered a gas station in between.”
In other words, the car did not go too far after leaving the national highway.
“What facilities are there where he left the national highway?”
“Several villages… a seaside sanatorium, a farmhouse restaurant, and an oil painting village.”
Tao Ran leaned closer to the living room’s photo wall, and one of the photos was a snapshot of the waves washing over the reef in the sunset.
“Locate where all the photos on this wall were taken. Let’s go!”
When Tao Ran went out of the city, Luo Wenzhou and Fei Du had just entered it.
The sun had started to set, but the heat was still steaming. The Yancheng Bureau was finally getting quiet. When Luo Wenzhou returned, the information gathering was basically complete. They let the family members of those lost girls go home and wait for news. Some of them, who either lived too far away to go back or were just simply unwilling to, were still hovering in the bureau. The staff on duty and the criminal investigation team had to arrange for them to go to the cafeteria for dinner first.
Luo Wenzhou unscrewed the cap of a mineral water bottle, grabbed two instant coffee packets from Lang Qiao’s desk, poured them into the water bottle, and shook it hard. The instant coffee melted reluctantly, resulting in a stranger color and flavor. And then he drank nearly half of the bottle under Fei Du’s shocked gaze: “What are you staring at? I didn’t drink urine.”
Fei Du felt his retina’s stomach was hurting, as if his eyes had drank a large mouthful of cold sesame oil. He hurriedly moved his eyes away and stared intently at the photos they found in the urn.
“Over a hundred girls have been missing for more than two decades. Although the criteria for joining their ‘membership’ may be harsh, the number of suspects is only five, which sounds a little small, doesn’t it?” Fei Du flicked the photo in his hand. “And these all seem quite new, they should be from recent years…”
At that, he suddenly trailed off.
Luo Wenzhou glanced at him questioningly. Fei Du carefully picked up one of the photos with his hand covered by a glass cloth – it was a man with his head cocked up, looking quite gentle, around forty years old, and was fairly handsome.
Each person recorded in the photo had several photos from different angles, which should be candid photos, and all the more recognizable ones were kept. The other photos of the man either had a wretched intoxication or a distorted expression. This was the only one that did not carry that much expression, which more or less looked like a human.
“This person looks familiar.” Fei Du scratched his chin. “Familiar, but I can’t remember it, which means I definitely don’t know him in business. When I get someone’s business card, I will pay attention to his or her facial features and write that down on the back of the business card in order to avoid the awkward situation where I can’t recognize someone when I meet them again after a long time. He’s definitely not one of the people I’ve played with. I usually play with only a few of them. Even if someone brings a friend, they don’t bring this kind of… uninteresting old man… My sensitivity to the human face is not very strong. Usually I cannot recall people’s faces after one month if I only meet them once. So it should be something within thirty days.”
Drinking the urine-like instant coffee, Luo Wenzhou listened to Fei Du disassembling his memory with wonder – he knew himself like how an engineer knew the computer configuration, accurate and objective. Although he could not remember everything, he knew all patterns and the behavior that followed.
It seemed that he opened his own brain from time to time, and studied each of his thoughts carefully.
At this moment, Fei Du had quickly gone over his whole month’s schedule — a middle-aged man, with a middle class Swiss watch on his wrist, certainly had economic strength. Logically speaking, he should not appear where rich young people got together …
At the time, Lang Qiao popped up with a dead dog face: “Boss, you are finally back. I don’t want to do anything like dealing with the victim’s family anymore! I…”
Luo Wenzhou raised a finger to quiet her.
“The pianist,” Fei Du suddenly said. “There was a photo of him on the wall of the Xiling Racing Club. He was not there the day Qu Tong was kidnapped, so the boss invited a band to perform… Yes, even if they encountered that kind of chance that will not happen for a century like a robbery, the first reaction of the people who are not familiar with the area is to retreat first and avoid the incident, rather than ‘pick up something on the way.’”
“No wonder the monitors at intersections failed to capture him that day. They have a ‘membership’ system, so there must be a relationship among these people so they referred each other. We can follow the lead and find the other four. The chief plotter doesn’t want to tell us anything, but we can definitely get something from these conspirators.” Luo Wenzhou turned to Lang Qiao, “You don’t like to deal with the victim’s family, so do you like catching people?”
The words “catching people” pumped a tube of chicken blood into Lang Qiao. Her exhaustion was wiped out completely. Without another word, she set off with the photo.
Luo Wenzhou picked up the dossier, and woke up a colleague who was snoring in the office with a kick: “Wake up, come with me. Let’s interrogate Xu Wenchao again.”
They went out one after the other. Fei Du stood up and stretched himself cautiously. His whole body was immersed in the smoke and sesame oil smell. He felt it very unsuitable to stay here for a long time, so he was about to leave. But right then, Luo Wenzhou doubled back.
“I need to chat with you,” said Luo Wenzhou, “but business first. Don’t leave now — you can wait in my office.”
With these words, he hurried away again.
Fei Du froze for a moment, hesitated for a while, and finally moved his leg back.
After all, Xu Wenchao was not as worryless as Su Luozhan. Apparently he did not get any sleep the night before.
His eyes were sucked into his eye sockets, and he was prepared for the police to take turns in his interrogation — which was fine. He had a very clear alibi in both kidnapping cases.
It was precisely because of this that Su Luozhan dared to tell the police about him.
The Yancheng Bureau was not a small police station in a remote county town, and their every action was being watched. They definitely dared not use any means to torture and force a confession from an underage girl who had not even reached the age of fourteen.
As for him, since there was no concrete evidence, they would have to let go as soon as it reached the maximum limit time for criminal detention.
However, unexpectedly, he had waited for a whole day, but no one came to interrogate him.
The policemen in the bureau seemed to have forgotten about him totally.
Xu Wenchao was seemingly very calm. Nevertheless, after a long wait, he gradually lost his initial confidence. He felt somewhat uneasy — did they completely believe his alibi? Or did they give up on investigating him?
Although that would be the best result… but if his name had been cleared, why did they not let him go?
Just as Xu Wenchao was wondering, Luo Wenzhou came in with a group of people.
“The smell of smoke on my body is a little bit heavy,” Luo Wenzhou pulled back a chair and sat down opposite him. “Sorry, stayed busy all night to find out evidence about you.”
Hearing this, Xu Wenzhao felt uneasy. He slightly adjusted his sitting posture and looked at Luo Wenzhou with a fixed gaze: “I really have nothing to say about this matter.”
Luo Wenzhou grinned and asked casually: “What is your relationship with Su Luozhan?”
“I am her mother’s fiancé.” Xu Wenchao replied patiently, “Sir, I have already answered this question.”
“I know you are Su Xiaolan’s fiancé,” Luo Wenzhou raised his eyebrows, and suddenly looked at him knowingly. “I just want to know, why are you going to marry Su Xiaolan? Do you really still like the aging woman, or do you fancy her little daughter?”
Xu Wenchao was stunned for a moment, and then his eyes widened suddenly. He could not hide his anger and said, “Sir, are you responsible for what you are saying?!”
Luo Wenzhou was unfazed: “Su Xiaolan had a daughter and no husband, no good education background, no good social background, no work, her life resources are mysteries, and there are many unpleasant rumors about her. On the other hand, Mr. Xu, you have a successful career, you have a fancy house and a fancy car. And you are a good-looking person. You should be an ideal spouse. I have been wondering, if you are telling the truth, why would she not want to marry you?”
“Marriage and love cannot be measured by material conditions,” Xu Wenchao sneered, barely suppressing his anger and maintaining his manners. “Besides, this is a private matter between us, I think-”
Luo Wenzhou interrupted him: “She refused to marry you. Was it because she treated money like dung, or was it because you did not want to marry her?”
Xu Wenchao said coldly: “What does this have to do with the case? You can interrogate me about the case even if I am innocent, but you can’t insult my…”
Luo Wenzhou interrupted him again: “Insulted the love you pasted on the window of the bedroom facing south in Room 201, Unit 3, Building 8, in the Xiangyang Community?”
Xu Wenchao’s body froze; all color drained from his face.
There was a silent moment in the interrogation room.
The criminal policeman who was taking notes had been busy the whole night. He just had a quick nap in the duty room, and he had no time to keep up with the latest progress from his colleagues yet. He was busy hiding himself behind the turning page so that he could yawn. Hearing this, half of his yawn was stuck in his throat, and he was transfixed. Like a dumb man, he looked at Luo Wenzhou and then Xu Wenchao.
Xu Wenchao’s ears flared, and the irritability in his heart was aroused by the other man’s words was like a fuse lead. Lightning fell from the sky, followed the lead and lit a fire. He struggled to squeezed out a denial: “What are you… talking about…?”
“Xiangyang Community, Building 8. Your teenage photographs are still posted on the windows,” Luo Wenzhou said word by word. “There are blood stains on the scene, which means that the DNA can still be traced. You have hair left in the car parked in the parking space of that condo. The photos taken by the peeping eyes behind the frame were just handed over to me by Su Xiaolan.”
With a smile, he reached out and knocked on the table: “Mr. Xu, can we talk now?”