Chapter 59 Reading Out Loud
TL: QuantumC, Editor: IsaLee
Luo Wenzhou came out of the interrogation room feeling a bit lightheaded. The intense lengthy questioning was torture for both parties, especially with a tough-minded suspect like Xu Wenchao. Not leaving any breathing room for the other party meant not leaving any breathing room for yourself either.
While those on the field were still trying to gather more evidence, those in the interrogation room – both the grilled and the griller – were playing mind games. Based on expression and tone, the two sides were constantly deceiving and assessing one another.
How much evidence did they have? How much did Su Luozhan say?
Where did he contradict himself? Which confession was sincere and which one was an understatement?
Were they bluffing?
How do I bluff to make him admit it?
A single slackened moment could let Xu Wenchao get the upper hand, so Luo Wenzhou couldn’t possibly take a break or use a substitute.
Luo Wenzhou’s neck and above were now in an all-out strike. He pretty much auto-piloted himself back to the office based on muscle memory.
Qu Tong’s parents had heard about the discovery at Bin Hai and had headed over despite the dissuasion. Guo Heng was now sitting in the waiting area alone.
Seeing Guo Heng’s slumped back, Luo Wenzhou thought he was dozing off. So he tiptoed to pick up a uniform left by someone else on the table and wanted to use it as a blanket. But Guo Heng opened his eyes.
The crow’s feet on his face were like the furrows on a thirsty land. The whites of his eyes were jaundiced and bloodshot, but there wasn’t a single trace of drowsiness.
The usually bustling office space of the criminal investigation team was very quiet: people had either been sent out to the field or fallen asleep in their cubbies. The two waking men faced each other in silence. The air between them seemed to have clumped into a dreary cloud that even the strongest sweep from the AC couldn’t blow away.
After a long while, Guo Heng finally managed to open his mouth: “You…I…Your Chief, named Lu… he told me everything.”
Slowly, Luo Wenzhou pulled over a chair and sat down across from him.
“He didn’t go into much detail.” Guo Heng continued, “He said that a lot was still under investigation — now, can you tell me more?”
Luo Wenzhou hesitated, then said: “Twenty years ago, in the summer, Guo Fei met a girl who claimed to be visiting Lian Huashan with her teacher. She wore a floral dress, and she was a very pretty girl…but she was very bad at directions and asked Guo Fei for help many times. One day after a tutoring session, Guo Fei ran into her again. She looked troubled because her teacher was hospitalized and she couldn’t find the way back to the hotel on her own. Being the warmed-hearted child that she was, who always received the “‘kind and benevolent’ remarks from her teacher at the end-of-semester evaluations — We found it in the Lian-Huashan Elementary School record room — Guo Fei tried to explain the direction to her several times, but she was still very lost. So she thought, it was only a short walk and it wouldn’t take me very long to show her. She decided to accompany the girl back to her hotel.”
The moment that he mentioned the name “Guo Fei”, Guo Heng started trembling uncontrollably. Cloudy tears dropped and wetted his innumerable wrinkles.
Luo Wenzhou paused. He put one hand on Guo Heng’s shoulder — his gangly shoulder blade and seesawing chest seemed like old battered bellows.
Guo Heng struggled to take some air, then said: “Please, go on.”
“That girl, Su Xiaolan, gave Guo Fei something to drink to put her down. She kept her at the hotel and waited for Wu Guangchuan’s return. With the excuse of his hospitalization, Wu Guangchuan broke away from the rest of his colleagues. After killing Guo Fei, he hid her in the trunk and drove out of Lian Huashan. Su Xiaolan kept Guo Fei’s pencil box,” said Luo Wenzhou. Based on what they’ve gathered — Su Xiaolan’s diary, the consistency of the Modus Operandi, and others — Su Xiaolan was more likely to be the murderer rather than Wu Guangchuan. However, Luo Wenzhou twisted the truth a little with the most objective language he could find. He continued, “Because of the unhealthy relationship she had with the murderer, Su Xiaolan was very jealous of the victim. On the way back, they had a dispute and she jumped out of the car. After hiking over the sloped plain, she saw the telephone booth. She thought of a way to vent out the frustration: making the screaming phone call and letting you hear the rattling pencil box.”
“She envied Guo Fei for having parents like you, and for having a loving family. She envied her, for what a happy and innocent girl she had grown up to be. What Guo Fei had was what she could never own, not even with twenty more years of life.”
Guo Heng looked up at Luo Wenzhou’s face, completely wordless.
“Uncle Guo, you did not kill the wrong man. You were just…too kind… to doubt the other person in the room.” Luo Wenzhou said softly, “But because you killed Wu Guangchuan right in front of Su Xiaolan’s eyes, it deterred her. She learnt for the first time that doing these things had consequences. She suffered. Her life was miserable since then and she committed far fewer crimes. You saved many potential victims — hundreds.”
But Guo Heng covered his eyes. His voice was choked up by tears.
Luo Wenzhou called: “Uncle Guo…”
“Please…” Guo Heng frenzily waved his hands, “Don’t bother prettying things up for me…I know you mean well, but…please…”
Guo Heng might have been impulsive and quick-tempered, but he was not stupid. He spotted the obvious cracks in the story.
“Where is my Fei Fei now?”
“Su Hui was not involved in this case, so we suspect that Guo Fei was buried somewhere along the interstate from Lian Huashan to Yancheng.”
“Can…can she still be found? Will you continue to search for her?”
“Yes.” Luo Wenzhou said, “A person cannot just disappear into thin air. She must still be hidden somewhere. There must be clues. Even if we cannot find her very soon, we will not give up. Even if the others do, I shall not. I promise.”
Guo Heng left the Bureau at dawn. Luo Wenzhou watched him until his silhouette disappeared into the morning mist. He didn’t know what Guo Heng’s future plans were. But be it 60, 70, or 80 years of age, life must go on and one’s eyes must look forward, not back.
It might’ve been his illusion, but Luo Wenzhou thought that Guo Heng’s back looked a little straighter than before.
Afterwards, Luo Wenzhou dragged his legs back to the office. He slumped onto the chair and exhaled deeply. Somehow, it felt like something was missing. He looked around. Suddenly, he saw a cup of coffee that had already turned completely cold.
Snap… He had asked Fei Du to wait!
Obviously, young master Fei would not wait for him for the whole evening. He must have left a long time ago.
Luo Wenzhou held the coffee cup with one hand and stared at it, half-awake. Suddenly, another hand reached over his shoulder to take the cup away, while a dusky woody fragrance snuck into Luo Wenzhou’s nose. He unconsciously sniffed. It made his nose feel dry.
God knows which exorbitant hotel room Fei Du emerged from. He had showered and changed. Under Luo Wenzhou’s confused eyes, he put down some coffee and breakfast taken from the hotel’s buffet.
Naturally, Luo Wenzhou carped about it: “Don’t you still have a home? Who’d sleep in a hotel every day? Are you running it or somethin’?”
“You’re not technically wrong.” Fei Du answered unabashedly, “I own 60% of it.”
Luo Wenzhou: “…”
A big boss flaunting to the face of the poor working-class…what a jerk.
“Didn’t you ask me to wait ‘cause you had something to tell me? Go ahead.”
“Oh, yeah.” Luo Wenzhou opened the coffee cup and drank a mouthful, trying to piece back parts of his lost brain with the help of the caffeine, “I wanted to say…”
What was it?
Luo Wenzhou paused, surprised to realize that he had blacked out. Part of his memory was completely blank that not even a single period or comma survived. This must be what Alzheimer’s feels like, he thought.
Looking up, Fei Du’s white shirt somehow started to glow and had double images.
“I meant to say…”
Luo Wenzhou murmured some more syllables without making much sense. Suddenly, his body slumped—
He fell asleep in the middle of the sentence. Fei Du nimbly caught Luo Wenzhou’s hand and saved the coffee cup from smashing the ground. After putting the cup away, he arranged Luo Wenzhou’s arm into a more comfortable posture.
The man’s eyebrows were slightly furrowed. His double eyelids now had more than three folds. The usually clean-shaven chin was covered by a thin layer of bristle, making his slim face even narrower. To be fair, no one could’ve continued to gleam after a 48-hour investigation marathon, not even a celestial deity. But somehow, the scruffy look suited him. It gave him a jaded, yet seasoned look of a mature man. When his usual glib, playboy-ish vibe faded, something more weighty and earnest emerged.
Leaning over the desk, Fei Du held Luo Wenzhou’s chin with two fingers and turned his face toward him. For a little while, he studied it, like an antique collector appreciating a precious piece of china from the Ru Kiln (1). Then he stood back up. With a silent sigh, he admitted to himself that he was touched by this face.
At that moment, Lang Qiao — her legs as heavy as those of a dead dog — barged in. She thought that she could lay down anywhere on the street and fall asleep with the snap of fingers, but that was before she saw what she saw. Now, her headful of sleep-worms were shocked to flee helter-skelter. Fifty Shades of Grey and the like that she had read throughout her life were all whistling and parading in front of her eyes right now. The policewoman was so dumbfounded that she froze at the office entrance like a zombie.
The naughty and spotted ‘Mr. Grey’ wasn’t even a little flustered. He even turned to wink at her, and smiled mysteriously while pointing at the big bag of food next to him, signalling her to ‘help herself’. Then, he picked up the coffee cup which Luo Wenzhou had just drank from, took a sip, and then strolled away.
Meanwhile, Tao Ran was struggling to adjust his eyes to the bright morning sun after getting substituted by a newly-dispatched colleague. He absentmindedly patted his coat to get some dirt off, and randomly grabbed a car key. Suddenly, his phone vibrated. It was a picture from Chang Ning with Chen Chen in her arms. Although the girl’s fingers still tightly gripped onto her big sister’s sleeves, she managed to smile at the camera.
“The doctor said Chen Chen is ready to be discharged from the hospital now. My aunt wants to properly thank you and your colleagues. Can she invite you all to a meal at her place sometime?”
For the first time in his life, Tao Ran didn’t reply to his godess’s text message right away: he had already fallen asleep.
Fei Du took a taxi back to his office. It wasn’t time for work yet. He signed a couple paperworks that he owed to Assistant Miao, then sat alone in his beautifully decorated office.
It used to be the office of Mr. Fei Sr. There was a parlor by the entrance where he kept a half-hidden wine cellar and a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf. On the top of the shelf there were many collector’s items such as ancient scrolls, bamboo and wooden slips, and silk books. The bottom half displayed the old master’s watch collection. On the other side of the room was a showcase of ancient weapons. The one in the middle was a longsword said to be the possession of an emperor. Ages had passed since it last drank blood, but its blade was still shiny and its handle ever so polished. Under the cool lighting of the display, the sword looked ready to break free and quench its thirst again.
In the middle of the sofa set stood another showcase. It was 1.4 meters tall and round in shape. The outer circle was filled with ancient coins that were no longer in circulation. A small display in the middle exhibited three pieces of jewelry, each the winning piece from an international jewelry design competition in three consecutive years. There were only three, because before the fourth champion could be displayed here, the collector himself went lying like a corpse at the Bin Hai Sanatorium.
Every first-time guest here was stunned by this museum-like parlor. Stay here long enough and you will start feeling the wealth, power, ambition, and desire creeping out from your pores.
The office and the parlor were connected by a narrow corridor that only allowed one person to pass at a time. The corridor curved so that the light could not shine through from the office. The office had two small windows for ventilation on the sides and a large French window in the middle. It looked down at the heart of Yancheng, where traffic moved slowly and pedestrians were as small as ants.
Fei Du stood up. He opened a locked drawer and took out a thin folder with some contracts, financial reports, and asset transference briefings inside. They were all paperwork related to the cooperation between his company and the “Guang Yao Fund Management”. When his father was still the CEO, they did business together. His company made regular donations to one of the charity funds that Guang Yao operated.
When the contract expired, their cooperation halted. The other party didn’t seem to be expecting a renewal.
Another piece of paperwork lay quietly at the bottom of the stack. It was a proposal for a project named “Bin Hai Ocean Resource Vacation Paradise — Building the Maldives of China”. The Guang Yao Fund Management advocated for this project and invited them to invest too. But back then, his father considered the project to be too hefty and lacking a mature business model. The board — which was basically his father’s pet parrot — turned it down. Consequently, the project became a stillbirth.
“Bin Hai…” Fei Du scratched the words with his pen cap.
The three principles for discarding a body —
First, discard somewhere absolutely safe, somewhere no one else will dig. If so, then no one would ever discover the secrets underground.
Second, mix the body with other bodies from natural deaths, such that even if they were excavated, no one would feel the need to call the police.
Third, make the body unidentifiable so that even if the police were involved, they wouldn’t be able to identify the victim.
The third principle was applicable twenty years ago. But with today’s forensic technology, it was almost impossible. Then, with Xu Wenchao’s intellect, he must’ve followed the first two.
Why would he have picked Bin Hai?
If the bodies were thrown directly into the sea, there would be a high risk of them being caught by the fishing boats. If they could manage to sail further into the sea, it required certain weather conditions and was not suitable for every season. So some of the bodies had to be buried on land.
Neither Xu Wenchao nor the Sus had any history with Bin Hai. None of them were from there or had any relatives there. Then what was it that made Xu Wenchao choose this place? Did this freelance photographer just accidentally stumble upon it and decide that it was conveniently beautiful and deserted?
One week later, with cooperation of the police forces from two provinces, the extremely complex and abhorring case that spun across twenty some years was finally wrapped up. The musician at the racing club who had abducted Qu Tong identified one of the four other men in the pictures. They had a strict membership policy where only trusted senior members could introduce new members into the club. The newbies would only be allowed to take little girl Su Luozhan out for dinner at first. They needed to spend a lot of money and time to prove their loyalty before becoming ‘senior members’.
‘Pull out the radish and you will also pull out the mud.’ The ‘members’ were identified one by one as each new suspect confessed their introducers. Some of them weren’t in the pictures and had long rescinded from the group. Some were even high-profile celebrities or successful business men. When the police came for them, it made quite a lot of headlines.
Following Fei Du’s hypothesis, Guo Fei’s body was discovered in an unregistered burial site for villagers next to the interstate between Lian Huashan and downtown Yancheng. According to the locals, before the cremation practices became popular, the place was used to bury the bodies of those that died in accidents. Because it was considered ominous, many folk tales surrounded it and no one went near it unless they had to. There was once a drunk villager who stumbled into the place and found a new mound. He was scared out of his mind. There was even a ghost story about it.
But because of the taboo surrounding the place, no one took the time to look into it.
Briefing the public, gathering evidence, and prosecuting the suspect…tons of follow-up work left Luo Wenzhou hardly any time to breathe. When it finally settled down, Luo Wenzhou was shocked to realize that it was already mid-September.
Today he finally returned to his usual nine-to-five routine. But before he could enjoy anything, he saw a familiar sports car parked in front of the Bureau’s entrance, with a familiar bastard standing next to it smiling at the parking enforcement officer who was writing the ticket.
(1). The Ru Kiln is an imperial court designated porcelain production site in the Song Dynasty, famous for the extremely rare type of Chinese pottery called the Ru Ware.