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Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Xu Lan shouted back and started walking out the door after motioning for the boy to stay inside. Only one person could locate him, this was his partner, Wang Hao.
“Papa, where are you going?” The little one had a terrified look on his face. He pulled at the edge of Xu Lan’s shirt and did not let go.
“I’ll be going down for a while, then I’ll be back.” The boy still did not let go, because he remembered that a sister said the same thing once, but after waiting for ages, the sister never came back.
After seeing the boy’s worried expression, Xu Lan sighed. He opened the door and shouted, “Wang Hao, come up by yourself.”
As of then, Xu Lan still had reservations about bringing the child out. If the landlady knew, it would be all: ‘Where are the two months rental?”You can’t even raise yourself and you want to raise a child?”You can’t even pay the rent, and you need to pay the water and electricity fees’. The past two months had brought about a nasty change of character in the landlady, and almost every single time that they met, she just had to scold him. Only then did she feel better.
Wang Hao was a slender, experienced guy. He was frequently on assignments, which was why his skin was tanned just as dark as Xu Lan’s. From the moment he entered, his eyes were fixed on the little boy. A frightened Bai Wu immediately ran over to his protector, Xu Lan, and gave him a tight hug.
“Eh? Sergeant Xu, since when did you have this child? He’s already so big,” came Wang Hao’s loud voice. He could be silent for half a day, but when he spoke he could scare the hell out of people.
“I said he’s not my son.”
“Papa…” said Bai Wu in between sobs, and once again Xu Lan’s heart melted.
Xu Lan coughed and told the boy, “Can you come down and sit here for a minute? I have some things to talk about with Uncle Wang.” He put the boy down. Bai Wu was reluctant but still sat beside Xu Lan. Occasionally, the little boy would stare at Wang Hao.
Wang Hao was amused by the kid. Never would he have thought that the Sergeant Xu of indomitable spirit would be so consumed by a toddler. He could not resist poking fun at the boy.
“What’s your name, little fella?”
“How old are you?”
“Three and a half.”
“Is there anything you like?”
“I like my papa!” The boy had been answering the questions coldly throughout, but when it came to that question, he shyly threw himself into Xu Lan’s embrace.
Patting the child’s back, Xu Lan earnestly said, “Let him be, Wang Hao. Let’s cut to the chase.” Wang Hao would not simply look for him without any good reason.
Immediately after hearing those words, Wang Hao straightened his body, sat upright and still, then looked at Xu Lan. It was quiet for a while. Just when Bai Wu thought that the black uncle would raise a hand or something, a low voice suddenly echoed from the cramped room.
“Sergeant Xu. Regarding this matter, I can no longer face you.”
“Ay, what are you talking about?” Xu Lan waited for what seemed like half a day. The pent-up anxiousness surrounding the atmosphere was thus broken by his question, and he almost felt like punching Wang Hao. Fortunately for the latter, he had known Xu Lan for a few years now, and he sort of understood Xu Lan’s temper, so he quickly switched to the intended topic.
“Sergeant Xu, after you left, the bureau chief assigned this matter to Meng Chengjun and his group to investigate. Just this morning, before I came here, they set off with the police car. I heard that there was another murder at Wangfujing 1 . The MO 2 looked similar to the previous ones. I suspect that we might have a serial killer in our hands.”
When Wang Hao spoke, he tends to look a person directly in the eye. For criminal investigators such as himself, doing so had advantages as well as drawbacks. It was a good thing because one can then observe the suspect’s expression during questioning; no detail would be left unnoticed. On the flip side, such methods were too overbearing; for hardened criminals and psychopaths, it was completely useless, maybe even detrimental, since it had the potential to expose the investigator.
Perceptions were a double-edged sword.
“Another one?” Xu Lan dug out his ‘ Yunyan Special titbit soft 3 ‘ and prepared to light it up. Then he saw Bai Wu’s protruding bottom as the boy was digging something out from the sofa. He took out two tar filters and placed them in boy’s ears, before embracing the boy in his arms.
“This sofa is the last piece of furniture I have. If you keep digging and spoil it, I have no money to buy another one,” said Xu Lan, who then hinted at Wang Hao to continue.
“I have a rough idea of the things that you asked me to investigate.”
“Well look at you! It never crossed my mind that a joker like you would be so reliable, uncovering events that happened some ten plus years ago.” After hearing what Wang Hao said, Xu Lan was so excited that his lips began to dry. His moistened them and waited to hear the rest of it from Wang Hao.
Wang Hao scratched his head in slight embarrassment after hearing Xu Lan’s words of praise. Then he proceeded. “Eight years ago, when Chengdu underwent that massive relocation, the family was one of those householders who made a big fuss and refused to vacate their home despite pressure from property developers. They managed to leave a message. Without it, I could be plunging my head into a grave for all we know, and still come up empty-handed and clueless.”
“And then the son suddenly fell sick and died. The whole family went mad. During the year before last, their old man passed away in a mental institution, and after that, the crazy old woman was never found again. I’m curious, Sergeant Xu, why did you ask me to find out about all this? No matter how you look at it, there is no connection to the present homicide, at all.”
Wang Hao finally spilled the doubts he had in his heart and asked that question. Although he may have known Xu Lan for a good few years, the latter’s way of handling cases was exactly the same as the man himself: unpredictable.
Frankly speaking, which government official would come to work with a sinister scar on their forehead? People on the street would be scared out of their pants, yet he wore a smile on his face and handled his cases. He was just like Meng Chengjun: constantly beaming with smiles, and absolutely worthy of trust.
“Who said they were connected?”
“And you wasted so much energy, asking me to investigate it?” asked a dumbfounded Wang Hao. Xu Lan’s response left him stunned. If Xu Lan did not ask Wang Hao to investigate, no one would defend Xu Lan and discover why he was suspended from duty.
“Haha… when I browsed over the dossiers last month, I noticed something fishy about the family. So I asked you to find out what you can. I never thought that you would discover all these things,” replied Xu Lan. He cheerfully patted Wang Hao on the shoulder and went to pour a glass of water for his partner to drink.
All the time, Bai Wu was staring at Wang Hao as if the latter had snatched away Xu Lan.
“My boy, you don’t need to get involved in this matter at the moment. Since the director has assigned it to Meng Chengjun and his group, don’t take part and don’t go along with them. Otherwise, when the investigation leads nowhere, they’ll bite back and say that you obstructed their case. If that happens, who knows if you will be the one to plunge into Huangpu River.” Xu Lan passed the glass of water over to Wang Hao.
The sky was clear that day. A rarity, given that it was wintertime. Looking out the window, one could see the bare tree branches trembling amongst the buildings. The trees sought warmth, too.
Looking at Xu Lan’s tall figure, Wang Hao felt an indescribable shame: after years of being partners, not only did he not learn anything, he even caused Xu Lan to worry about him. However, when he thought about it, he realized he felt safe knowing that Xu Lan was watching out for him.
“Papa…” the young boy cried out, unable to bear the solemn atmosphere.
Xu Lan tenderly carried the boy up and sat on the sofa. Then, with a serious expression, he turned to Wang Hao.
“I understand, Sergeant Xu,” came the hurried reply, thinking that Xu Lan was waiting for him to declare his stand.
“Yes, Sergeant Xu!” The sudden sternness caused Wang Hao to jump out of the chair and spring to his feet, after which he turned to Xu Lan and bowed out of respect.
“Can you borrow me some money?” asked Xu Lan. It was as if his scar was smiling back at Wang Hao.
“Huh?” Wang Hao absent-mindedly muttered. His jaw dropped faster than his arm could relax.
While carrying the boy, Xu Lan bashfully said, “Come on, you know I’m spent. Then there’s this boy. Things are a little tight.”
As he uttered those words, he felt like his tongue tied itself up in a knot. It was winter, but the man was sweating like hell.
“Sergeant Xu! Just tell me how much you need!” It was the first time that Wang Hao saw how poor Xu Lan was. It wrung his heart to see a slim, young, and capable man looking at him with reddened eyes.
“A thousand? Or if it’s too much, five hundred will do,” Xu Lan said as he nervously licked his lips and ventured for his cigarette.
“Make it two thousand! Wait for a bit, I’ll head to the bank and withdraw the money.” Wang Hao did not expect that Xu Lan had endured hardship to such a level. The two thousand was the Wang Hao’s own suggestion.
In retrospect, Xu Lan wished he could rip out his big mouth. Aside from no one covering for him, he lost another hundred thousand, and his case was transferred to someone else!
“Alright! Such brotherly spirit!” Xu Lan rose up from the sofa and patted the generous man on his shoulder, and with a stagger, Wang Hao was flat on the floor.
“Boss, can you like, give me a bit of time to mentally prepare myself next time?” asked Wang Hao. After his request to lend money was agreed, Xu Lan’s listless lips became lively again, and damn did his figure and strength match!
“Oh, sorry about that, sorry. I got too excited for a moment there, couldn’t control myself,” apologized Xu Lan as he helped his friend up. At that point, Wang Hao regretted letting his emotions get the better of him, because after that, Xu Lan was laughing, of all things!
With that laugh, would you say he was conscientious?
“I’ll get going then.”
“Okay. Oh, one more thing, my phone is broken. Do you have any old ones? Would it be okay if I borrowed it?”
“I have a Nokia. I’ll bring it over tomorrow.”
“Sure.” Xu Lan’s eyes saw Wang Hao out, who then said his goodbye to the landlady.
She lifted her head and saw Xu Lan. Then she started muttering to him about his rental. In actual fact, the landlady was still a good person. No matter how much she scolded him during the two months, she has not acted on her intention to drive him out.
Xu Lan thought, ‘Good people still exist in the world. I’m one of them. I mean, just yesterday, didn’t I take a child under my care?’
He woke the soundly sleeping Bai Wu. “Hey, time to wake up. Let’s get something to eat.”
They had not eaten breakfast and it was almost lunchtime already. Xu Lan did not mind not eating, but the boy was still young and must be treated as such.
Who knows how much pain the boy suffered in the past? Even if he was hungry, he might have quietly slept through the hunger. When Xu Lan bathed the boy yesterday, he noticed many old and new scars on the child’s body. Just looking at it made Xu Lan worried.
“Oh. Papa, you’re done with work? Did the black uncle leave?”
“Let’s go. We’ll get some lunch,” replied Xu Lan as he took the overcoat from the back of the door and wore it while waiting for the little one.
“Why aren’t you moving? You’re not hungry?”
“I am…but, papa said, we’re poor…” The young boy hugged his own thighs and buried his head in them.
“Oh dear, even a kid knows to tell me to save money. How then? It’s not only good food that I want to eat, I want to buy some new clothes too. If you don’t go, then I don’t wanna buy them already.” Xu Lan picked him up and used a handkerchief to wipe his hands, then wrapped the boy inside his overcoat.
“Papa, if one day, we have nothing to eat, will you leave me?” asked the boy, who nestled himself in Xu Lan’s chest and was on the verge of tears. He dared not look up.
“Why would I do that? After we finish our meal, we’ll get the papers done, so next time you can’t even run away and you won’t have to worry.”
“Really?!” asked the boy as he looked up, with those deep blue eyes that blinked at Xu Lan.
“Yes, really. Cross my heart.”
“Papa, I like you the most,” Bai Wu said as he kissed Xu Lan on the cheek, with no apparent sense of fear whatsoever.
“Come, let’s go and eat.” Xu Lan happily carried the boy and went out.
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