Author: 长洱 / Chang’er
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Hongjing was an old city.
It had seen many storms, but no matter what happened, big or small, it failed to make any ripples. The sun would rise, the students would wake up early, and the sound of morning lectures could be heard on campus as usual.
These situations were no different from the previous days.
As always, Lin Chen checked the student dorms. When he finished checking the last box on the roster, he turned to the front page and looked at only the names that hadn’t been marked off.
As the school’s dorm manager, this was something he was most afraid of encountering.
Just five minutes ago, he received a call from a teacher saying that Zheng Xiaoming, who was a first-year student in class three, was absent from morning class. The teacher asked him to go to his room to wake up the kid, who was probably still in bed.
But what really surprised him was that, after inspecting the dorms, he didn’t see any students there.
The white flower and blue background curtains at the dorm were blown gently by the wind. Lin Chen sighed. After three years of working here, this was the first time he encountered a missing student.
He casually spun the pen in his hand. His impression of Zheng Xiaoming was that the kid was quiet and chubby. He didn’t seem like the type who would be rebellious. Moreover, the school was strictly guarded. The guard wouldn’t easily let a child go out alone. Perhaps it was more likely he was taken away by his parents, or could it be that he was kidnapped?
As if to confirm his thoughts, his cellphone suddenly rang.
He took out his phone and saw an unidentified number belonging to Hongjing’s area code.
He connected the call and pressed the record button. A lazy voice came from the other line. “Mr. Lin, do you know Zheng Xiaoming?”
“Well, Xiaoming is now in my hands. Please bring your wallet and come to Cangshui Bridge on Yanjia Lane to get him. Thank you for your cooperation.”
After the other party finished speaking, they hung up.
Lin Chen looked at the string of numbers on the screen, stupefied. Not only was this the first time a student went missing, but it was also the first time he encountered such a carefree “kidnapper”.
He hesitated for a moment, debating whether he should call the police, then grabbed his wallet and went to take a bus.
The day chosen by the kidnapper was good. The trees were lush and the flowers were in full bloom. Even the river under the Cangshui Bridge was shimmering like glass that had just been cleaned.
As if he was being watched, as soon as he stepped onto the stone bridge, his phone rang again.
The kidnapper’s voice was hoarse and calm. “Mr. Lin, please turn left. I’ll wait for you at the sixth door.”
It must be a thing that all kidnappers loved to command others. Before Lin Chen could joke about the “sixth door”, the aforementioned door sign, Unit 6 Yanjia Lane, had already appeared in front of him.
Dusty walls, an old door, and a window.
The wooden door creaked open. When he looked up, he saw an unshaven man standing by the door frame.
The man held a cigarette in his left hand while supporting himself on the doorframe with his right. The sun cast its rays on him, illuminating a pair of languid eyes that looked a bit sunken. Those eyes were faintly green. They looked unbridled, which gave off an unscrupulous vibe, giving him a look of recklessness, as if the sky, water, and city full of spring could be easily discarded.
A man that looked at everything indifferently probably wouldn’t really kidnap an eighty-pound chubby kid.
Lin Chen spoke calmly. “I’m here to pick up the brat. Thank you for taking him in.”
He slowly moved but didn’t hear the expected polite response, so he looked up only to see the other person had a cigarette in his mouth while he rubbed his fingers that were now empty.
Obviously, the phrase “bring your wallet” wasn’t a joke.
Lin Chen was left speechless, but he still reached into his pocket and pulled out a dark purple bill that was missing a corner and said, “Just five yuan.”
The man took the money and pocketed it. He didn’t seem half-ashamed at all. He raised his hand to remove the cigarette and puffed out, then moved to the side while still keeping his other hand propped on the door frame.
Lin Chen bowed slightly to thank him, squeezed into the house from under the man’s arm, and walked inside.
On the wooden bed facing the side of the river, he saw an upturned ass.
“Truancy isn’t a good thing.”
Lin Chen sat down by the bed, stretched out his hand and grabbed Zheng Xiaoming, who was pretending to be an ostrich, and put him on the bed. He then bent down, picked up the shoes on the floor, and put them on the child’s feet. He then continued, “Of course, since you’re a boy, it’s understandable to make mistakes every now and then.” He laced the shoes patiently while continuing his speech. “But the problem is, first, I don’t like to go out, and second, I’m really poor, so sneaking away is a more appropriate way to handle this than calling me.”
His voice was soft, but the little fatty looked at the man who was still smoking at the door with tears in his eyes.
Lin Chen glanced at the little fatty, then at the man who seemed to be smiling, before his eyes fell on a set of navy-blue uniforms at the corner of the door.
When a normal and well-meaning citizen found a lost child, their first reaction should be to send them to a police station. Instead, this citizen decided to torture this child for the dorm manager’s number and called him specifically to come pick the kid up. It was obvious that this man didn’t have good intentions.
Lin Chen retracted his gaze, grabbed the child’s hand, and turned to leave.
Just as he was about to cross the door, he heard a click and felt something cold touch his wrist. A pair of silver handcuffs had suddenly appeared there.
Lin Chen looked at the child who was hugging his leg and said helplessly, “Of course, if you provoke a police officer, you shouldn’t run away. It would be more appropriate to be coquettish and hug their thigh.”
“Mr. Lin is really a good person. How about we grab a cup of tea?” The police officer on the side said slowly.
“I’m not very suitable for going to the police station.” Lin Chen thought about it seriously before he answered.
“You’ll get used to it after a few more visits,” the other party said with a smile.
There were many people who wouldn’t enter a police station in their entire lives. It was more appropriate to say, many people would never enter a police station’s interrogation room in their entire lives.
Therefore, if one could solve a problem by acting coquettish to avoid blowing things up, one should. After all, the interrogation room was extremely gloomy and depressing.
There were iron bars on the windows. On the wall facing you, in large characters, were the words “Leniency to those who confess. Severity to those who resist” plastered on it. An upright police officer would interrogate you while, at the same time, you may be watched by several people on the other side.
Zhang Xiaolong was an ordinary policewoman in Hongjing’s Criminal Police Division.
At the moment, she was standing outside in front of the one-way glass, monitoring every move of the suspect in the interrogation room.
She would look down from time to time, recording something in her notebook. Perhaps because she was too focused, she didn’t realize two people had come in at some point until a low, hoarse voice called out.
“How is it?”
Zhang Xiaolong turned her head, looked at the new captain’s handsome side profile, and then blushed a little. However, being strictly trained at the police academy, she quickly adjusted her mentality and reported, “Captain, the man you brought in has been sitting there for an hour and thirteen minutes. He had just looked at the pictures!” Zhang Xiaolong looked at the table nearby and flipped through two pages of notes. “According to your request, no one has spoken to him. Just half an hour ago, someone brought him some water, but he didn’t drink it. Oh, he seemed to look at the third photo the most. It’s really strange. Captain, there must be something wrong with this guy!”
The young woman tapped her ballpoint pen twice and looked at the young man in the interrogation room as she spoke excitedly.
To be honest, Zheng Xiaolong didn’t have any hostility towards this young man. After all, his looks were just her type.
The young man had black hair, and his eyes were black, as if they were bottomless. He was a little thin and wasn’t very tall. Maybe it was because of his calm demeanor or the seriousness in his eyes, but it gave him a very steady vibe, like the pines in the mountains or bamboo near a lake. When the wind blew, it would give off a refreshing smell.
If this was the case, there would be nothing suspicious at all, but after sitting in the interrogation room for so long, he only stared at three photos. He made no noise or even raised his head. How could a normal person have such patience?
Zhang Xiaolong thought that this was absolutely abnormal as she cast her gaze following the three photos on the table.
In the first photo, there was an old man with a peaceful expression, lying in bed, wearing a royal blue shroud. It looked as if he had just fallen into a deep sleep.
The second photo showed the old man lying in a morgue as there were corpses with white sheets next to him.
Compared with the first two photos that might have looked cold, the third was strange.
In the first two, the old man was lying flat in a shop. His eyes were closed, and he was wearing an old navy-blue uniform. He was lying on the ground covered in bloodstains. Looking closely at the photos, one would find that the old man’s side had white sand spilling out of his pocket.
If the photos were placed in chronological order, it would mean that the old man who was originally lying in the morgue, for some unknown reason, was carried from it to the troubled street.
Normal people obviously wouldn’t have this kind of hobby. If this wasn’t a medical fiasco, it would mean big trouble.
But no matter what the trouble was, that was a matter for the police. This didn’t seem like it had anything to do with a lowly dorm manager like him.
Lin Chen was pondering when the door to the interrogation room was pushed open, making a squeaking sound. He looked up and saw a policewoman sitting down in front of him.
“Lin Chen, where were you on September 7th between 1:00 and 3:00 PM?”
The female officer spoke in a clear voice. Before she even opened her file, the words she was about to ask had already left her mouth.
“In the dorms of the city’s elementary school.” Lin Chen looked at the photo again, then turned to the policewoman in front of him and calmly gave his reply.
The policewoman was beautiful. She had long black hair, fair ears, and in those ears was a small wireless headset.
“Can anyone verify this?” The policewoman hurriedly interrupted him and added, “You said you were at the dorms. Do you have someone who can vouch for this?”
“During the time you specified, I was alone as the students were still in class. There is no one who could verify this.”
After Lin Chen finished his answer, he could tell the policewoman looked a little depressed. She lowered her head and tapped her pen, then continued to ask according to the questions in her notebook. “Then, have you been to Third Hospital recently?”
Obviously, someone had prepared these questions in advance and sent their subordinate to go interrogate him. This meant that the person in charge was most likely standing behind the one-way glass and was observing his every move.
It didn’t seem like they needed to go through such great lengths just for a corpse that was moved.
“Tell me, why am I being detained?” Lin Chen interrupted the policewoman’s questioning.
The policewoman’s eyes wandered and she subconsciously looked at the glass wall.
Lin Chen leaned forward. He probably roughly knew what was going on. “I heard recently that there were cases of neatly dressed male corpses that had a handful of white sand beside them in the morgue at Third Hospital.” He stared into the policewoman’s eyes, then leaned back in his chair. “This is extremely weird. If the city bureau finds this case difficult, they will probably seek out two types of people to help—one would be Taoist priests, the other, psychologists… So, you guys are cooperating with Unit H, right?”
Zhang Xiaolong’s eyes widened, staring at Lin Chen as if she was looking at a pervert. Suddenly, she pressed on her headset. It seemed she had received some instructions. She abruptly stood up, turned around, and left.
Lin Chen turned to the side and faced the one-way glass and said calmly, “Come out. Don’t hide.”
A moment later, the door of the interrogation room was opened again.
A slightly chubby man pushed the door in. He was holding a thermos in his left hand while his right was holding a freshly washed porcelain cup. He set the items on the table, took out a bag of tea from his pocket, and placed it in the cup, then poured the hot water in. He did this all in one smooth motion. Afterwards, he bent down and very respectfully handed the cup of tea as his voice trembled a little. “Shi… Shixiong*.”
*(师兄) Used to address a senior male fellow student or apprentice. In this context, it’s similar to calling him “senpai”.
“It turns out it’s Professor Fu.” Lin Chen didn’t take the teacup as he replied back icily.
“Shixiong… It wasn’t me who arrested you!” As the only external criminal psychology consultant for the city bureau, Fu Hao was rarely at a loss when he was at the police station.
“Why detained me?” Lin Chen asked dryly.
“Because of the sand.”
“What kind of evidence is this?”
“Shixiong, I don’t dare deceive you.” Fu Hao came forward doggedly. “There’s been panic at the city’s hospital recently. Every time they found a fully dressed corpse, the corner of their bed would always be sprinkled with fine sand. This you already know.”
Lin Chen nodded.
“This morning, Captain Xing met a lost child on the side of the road. The child knocked on the car window, pulled out sand from his pocket, and said ‘Uncle, I want to eat KFC. Can I exchange it with this?’”
“What a genius.” Lin Chen could hardly believe his ears.
“Hur hur,” Fu Hao snarked sarcastically. “Afterwards, they compared it with the evidence at the office. The sand the child took out matched the ones next to the corpses.”
“How coincidental.” Lin Chen frowned.
“This is more than a coincidence, senior. Don’t you know? There was a riot in Chunshui Street yesterday. An old man fell dead to the ground in front of everyone’s eyes. When the ambulance arrived, they said he’d been dead for at least several hours.” Fu Hao lowered his voice and said slowly, “Moreover, a handful of sand fell out of the old man’s pocket.”
“What kind of sand is it?”
“It’s very special sand—very white—but the evidence team hasn’t figured it out yet.”
When Lin Chen heard this, his brows furrowed. “Show it to me.”
Before he could finish, the door to the interrogation room was pushed open again, and a bearded man carrying a bag of evidence smugly walked in.
“Mr. Lin, my name is Xing, Xing Conglian.” The man had changed into a police uniform at some point, which made his demeanor more dignified and his attitude more appropriate, unlike the hooligan who was rubbing his fingers earlier on. “I hope you can identify this sand. Have you seen it before?”
Lin Chen didn’t bother to look at him and instead smoothly picked up the bag of sand on the table.
The bag weighed about 50g. He opened the evidence bag carefully and examined the content inside.
The sand was extremely white, and the grains were particularly clean. It was obviously different from the rough dirt at a construction site or the fine sand on a beach.
Lin Chen put down the bag of sand and looked at Fu Hao as he spoke in a cold tone. “You haven’t seen this sand before?”
“I don’t think so,” Fu Hao answered honestly.
“If you don’t even know this, how on earth did you even graduate?” Lin Chen asked seriously.