Author: 长洱 / Chang’er
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
On TV, a reporter was interviewing a resident.
It was a gray-haired old lady wearing a red armband. The old lady was very excited and said to the reporter, “Oh, I watched the news yesterday. Aren’t you all looking for that big star? When I saw him, I thought he kind of looked familiar! I thought about it and seemed to have seen him somewhere. Guess what? Before I went to bed, my old man told me what we’re having tomorrow morning, and suddenly, I knew where I had seen this big star you were looking for.”
The old woman finished speaking and began to walk while the reporter was asking her dozens of questions.
The camera followed her steps, sweeping past a pink wall. There were green bricks and a slated bridge recorded by the camera. A turquoise river was on the side of the road, and the bricks and tiles that appeared on TV gave Lin Chen a familiar feeling.
He was like Wang Chao. He turned his head blankly and looked at Xing Conglian for a while, speechless.
Because the old lady was walking through what was Yanjia Lane, the same street he would walk through every day.
Song Shengsheng was living in a place that was close to them?
How was this possible…
The old lady walked along the river for a while, then turned left into another alley, and finally stopped in front of the entrance to a large bakery.
The camera lens moved to the signboard of this breakfast shop, and Lin Chen was so shocked he almost forgot to breathe. He clearly remembered that it was the morning before yesterday; on the day before the accident at Ansheng International Mall, he and Xing Conglian were at this shop.
They sat opposite each other and had breakfast in the shop, which had a strong smell of oil.
The cameraman recorded the steaming fritters and snow-white soy milk and finally pointed the camera at the shop owner.
All of a sudden, there were so many people in the shop, and many of them were holding microphones and cameras. The boss was very surprised. “What’s the matter? Is my Lao Chen’s fritter finally famous?”
“Boss Chen, who is the little kneader in your family? Who’s in the back of your kitchen? Can he come out?” the old lady asked mysteriously.
As soon as the old lady said this, Lin Chen almost bit himself. He finally remembered why he felt Song Shengsheng looked familiar.
He should indeed have seen Song Shengsheng. The old lady was right. It was the person working in the back of the bakery—the worker who was kneading dough and never spoke.
Sometimes, Boss Chen didn’t have enough dough at hand, and he was too busy to go get it himself, so he would shout, and someone would come out from the back kitchen and deliver the dough to him, then he would bow his head and walk to the back again…
The appearance of the worker gradually overlapped with the picture of Song Shengsheng after he was released from prison.
Lin Chen thought that in that bustling shop, he must have had the opportunity to pass by Song Shengsheng once or twice. Maybe Song Shengsheng glanced at him, maybe he glanced at Song Shengsheng. Why didn’t he remember this earlier?
But was it really Song Shengsheng?
Without all the rivets all over his body and his unique silver hair, the kneader’s face was pale, and his skin was dry and chapped. He appeared to be an overworked small worker at the city’s lowest level. Except that he looked much older than those people and didn’t have any traces of what he had used to look like before.
Lin Chen had many ideas about how Song Shengsheng should look now, and he even preferred that Song Shengsheng become a crazy executioner to exact revenge on Li Jingtian, as he had feared, rather than this: ordinary, introverted, and lifeless…
Would the once proud soul that was dragged to the depths of hell really become humble and rickety, to the point of being almost unrecognizable?
Lin Chen covered his face with both hands, feeling extremely uncomfortable.
He felt his shoulder sink. At some point, Xing Conglian had put his hand on his shoulder. Lin Chen raised his head, and Xing Conglian added more pressure, as if to comfort him.
Xing Conglian looked at him and said to Wang Chao, “Wang Chao, find Boss Chen’s number right away.”
The teenager, who was bare-shirted, nodded, then rushed to the table and opened his laptop. “A’Chen Gege, do you know the full name of Boss Chen?”
“I don’t.” Lin Chen thought for a moment and said, “The bakery must have records in the Bureau of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Health. You can check there.”
During the live TV broadcast, the boss nimbly took the cash. When he was looking for change, he thought about answering the old lady’s question just now. “He’s gone.”
“What? Gone?” The reporter raised his voice and asked, “Are you sure? When did he leave?”
“Gone. He left after getting off work yesterday. What’s the matter? Is this a TV show looking for people?” The boss wiped his hand on his apron and asked perplexingly, as if unaware of the situation.
“Lao Chen, you didn’t watch the news yesterday? It’s a big deal!” The old lady shouted at the top of her lungs in exasperation.
“My little grandson hogs the TV all day watching bears. What kind of news can I watch?” The boss lowered his head and continued to roll out the dough.
The old lady batted the boss’ arm. “That’s Song Shengsheng! A formerly famous big star. Did you check his ID card when you hired him? Was that his name? Is it Song Shengsheng?”
Boss Chen burst out laughing. “What big star? How could our A’Guan be a star? It’s not like you have seen A’Guan…”
Hearing what the boss said, the reporter was a little disappointed. “Is it true that his name is A’Guan? But why did he leave yesterday after he got off work? Do you know the details?”
“Tsk.” The boss stopped suddenly and looked at the reporter suspiciously. “He said his name is A’Guan, but now that you mentioned… He left in a hurry yesterday. He said he didn’t want the rest of his salary. Later, I chased him down, but he got into a big Benz…”
Hearing this, the reporter’s eyes lit up, and he became excited again. “Did you really check his ID card? Isn’t he really Song Shengsheng?”
Boss Chen smacked his mouth and waved his hand. “Our small shop doesn’t want trouble. We only need someone who is honest and willing to work hard. He’s been working here for three months and is very honest and responsible. How does he look like those stars on TV?”
“In other words, you don’t know who he is?”
“Of course I do. He’s A’Guan!”
The reporter then turned around and looked at the live broadcast camera and said very excitedly, “Dear audience, the trail of Mr. Song Shengsheng is becoming more confusing. Whether the bakery worker is the former King of Music, please keep watching Hongjing TV station as we track the clues down for you.”
The boss looked confused. He scratched his face, then leaned into the camera and suddenly said, “Oh, by the way, the person who drove the big Benz left me a number. Do you want it?”
“I want it! Thank you!” The reporter almost lost his composure in front of the TV because of the upcoming exclusive.
At the same time, Wang Chao shouted in front of the computer. “Captain, I found it!”
“Call,” Xing Conglian said heavily.
Wang Chao hurriedly dialed the number. During the live news broadcast, the boss was strangely taking out a note from his pockets when suddenly a ringtone sounded. He first handed the note to the reporter before answering the call.
“Hello, Boss Chen. I am the captain of the Hongjing Police. My name is Xing Conglian. Please take back the note and don’t reveal anything to reporters. Later, our colleagues will pick you up and escort you to the police station to get your statement. Please rest assured, this is just a routine inquiry.”
In the picture, the reporter had just opened the note.
Hearing this, Boss Chen hurriedly reached out his hand and snatched the note back. As if in an absurd comedy, he said to Xing Conglian carelessly in front of the camera, “Captain Xing, I snatched the paper back. Don’t worry, I won’t give it to anyone except the police!”
“Thank you, and please send me the number on the paper as soon as possible.”
After Xing Conglian finished speaking, he hung up the phone and also took out a piece of paper from his pocket. There was a circle left by the soup bowl on the paper. That was the warrant that he had previously placed under the bowl. He slowly opened it, and the sketch of the strange-named Mr. Meijing was smiling at them.
Lin Chen frowned tightly. Someone driving a Mercedes to pick up Song Shengsheng. Who was it? He hoped it wasn’t that terrifying person.
Xing Conglian turned his head and looked at him and asked, “You’re not worried about the same thing as me, are you?”
Lin Chen could only nod.
Song Shengsheng worked at the bakery, where they would occasionally go for breakfast. This was almost an incredible coincidence, but if this wasn’t a coincidence, then this matter had begun to approach the scope of a thriller. Lin Chen didn’t dare make any speculations about it.
They packed up quickly. Xing Conglian and Wang Chao stuffed everything into their backpacks at lightning speed. During the packing period, Xing Conglian didn’t disconnect the phone once. He kept assigning tasks to their Hongjing colleagues. First, he sent someone to Yanjia Lane to pick up Boss Chen, and then he said to the colleague on the other end of the line, “Take people from the forensic department to the bakery and see if there are any fingerprints left by that A’Guan, and scan them for inspection. Also, I have a picture here. When you see Boss Chen, ask him if he recognizes this as the person who picked up Song Shengsheng.”
After he finished speaking, he hung up the phone again, took a picture of the wanted warrant, and sent it over.
After doing all this, Xing Conglian’s text message notification buzzed. He clicked on the message, and a phone number consisting of 13 digits appeared, which was sent by the owner of the bakery.
“Consultant Lin, should we make this call right now?” Xing Conglian asked him as he stared at the number.
Lin Chen fell into contemplation. This was a really difficult question to judge, so even Xing Conglian hesitated.
Judging from the other party’s action of leaving a number, it was obvious they hoped someone would call them. This showed that the other party wasn’t afraid of them knowing they had picked up Song Shengsheng, and Song Shengsheng also voluntarily left with them. This shouldn’t be a kidnapping, so why?
Xing Conglian called to him again.
Lin Chen thought for a while and said, “Anyway, that reporter has seen the number, so he might already be calling now, so let’s wait and see.”
Xing Conglian nodded, as if agreeing with his judgment.
Soon they got into Xing Conglian’s Jeep and rushed back to Hongjing.
Lin Chen sat in the back seat with Wang Chao, who didn’t care anymore about the cute pink strawberry t-shirt that he was wearing.
The vehicle started. Wang Chao put his hands on the keyboard, but he didn’t know what to do.
“A’Chen Gege, I… What should I check?”
Lin Chen pinched the bridge of his nose and said to Wang Chao, “Let’s take a look at the situation on the internet first, then search the peripheral surveillance. Can you make sure that the A’Guan from the bakery is Song Shengsheng?”
Xing Conglian turned on the car radio channel to Hongjing broadcasting. The host’s magnetic and gentle voice flowed out. He said with some excitement, “The news about Song Shengsheng, the former King of Music, has affected the hearts of hundreds of millions of fans. Just now, the host of our Hongjing TV station has called the number of the mysterious gentleman who took Song Shengsheng away. Our director has cut to the audio. Let us hold our breath and wait quietly.”
The host said this in an almost chant-like tone. He was full of reverence when he spoke the name Song Shengsheng. It was always the nature of the media to follow the trend1 and praise high and step low2.
1Red top white (跟红顶白) Cantonese slang referring to following the trend.
2(扒高踩低) Idiom refer to flattering/clinging to the superior while bullying and suppressing the inferior.
The tone of the call ringing sounded, one after another. Finally, the line was connected, and everyone’s hearts had reached their throats.
A very calm and humble voice came from the car stereo. He said, “Hello, may I ask who this is?”
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