Actually, Chen Xiulian had feelings for this grinder. It helped her a lot, like her most loyal friend. The only thing was that it was too old. She wanted to put “He Zhiguo” onto it—all the He Zhiguo onto it. But there were too many “He Zhiguo”. They were all crammed into the newspapers in the basement. Chen Xiulian could not finish tearing all of them up.
When He Zhiguo hit Chen Xiulian in the past, he used to say that he was a practitioner of Qigong1 and trained under a shifu when he was young, so he was different from the ordinary man; he did not even die when he fell from the third story. At first, Chen Xiulian did not believe him, but now, she did. He Zhiguo was everywhere.
She remembered dragging He Zhiguo over from the first story and shoving him onto the grinder. She remembered every step she stood at that time. But when she woke up in the morning, He Zhiguo was still talking to her in her ears. That day, she cooked porridge and ate her breakfast facing He Zhiguo in the basement. She asked He Zhiguo, are you going to eat? But He Zhiguo said nothing, so she ate it on her own. To stop He Zhiguo from talking again, she put He Zhiguo into the porridge as well.
The swaying lights in the basement made Chen Xiulian dizzy. She caressed the grinder and put her face onto it. The grinder was icy cold, so cold that her face – which had been scraped red earlier – now felt comfortable. She recalled the previous man lying in the basement. What was his name? She had already forgotten it. But she knew that he was also He Zhiguo.
He Zhiguo was very good at putting on an act. He once conversed over the phone with the Inspection Bureau and said, I didn’t engage in domestic violence; it’s my wife who’s abnormal. I have never physically abused her. I’m being wrongly accused. After hanging up the phone, he dragged Chen Xiulian by her hair down the stairs and locked her up in the basement. He wanted her to reflect on the errors of her ways, then write him a letter of guarantee.
What did Huo Qingjun say as he was lying here?
He said, I didn’t rape anyone. I was wrongly accused.
“I know the truth.” Chen Xiulian said to the grinder. “The reports are all true. Everything written in the newspapers can’t be wrong. He’s just trying to weasel his way out.”
The grinder would never answer.
Chen Xiulian continued to say, “When they cover me on the news in the future, they will also tell the truth. I killed He Zhiguo because he broke the law. Why release him when he broke the law? There’s going to be problems if he’s released. He Zhiguo raped me in the past, but the Inspection Bureau didn’t arrest him, so he continued to rape me and beat me out there. What could I do? I did what I had to do.”
The basement was damp, and the blood that had yet to be completely clean smelled somewhat rancid.
Chen Xiulian opened her eyes. Her gaze was empty as she said, “Once He Zhiguo is no more, I’ll turn myself in. I’m not going to live anymore. I’ll perish with him. Qinqin won’t have to suffer any more beatings. She will be able to go to school happily in the future.”
The dog squeezed its head out from the door gap and barked a few times with its tongue hanging out.
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Chen Xiulian said, “Hush.”
A pity it was too late. She heard He Zhiguo waking up again. All day long, He Zhiguo would go fuck your mother; he never treated her like a human being at all.
◈ ◈ ◈
The murderer never used her own ID number, so the fingerprints she left on Huo Qingjun’s photo did not match up with Puli neighborhood’s access records. The access system in these small neighborhoods would only ask for the other party to report their own ID number before entering and saving it into the records.
Jiang Lian carried out key checks on the cleaning and moving companies that had worked with Puli neighborhood. He believed that the murderer was someone around the interrogation targets. This was where her social circle lay; it was where she got the victims’ information she wanted. The Inspection Bureau went through the social information of each of these people. Their friends and relatives all fell within the scope of investigation. The surveillance system compared everyone’s fingerprints, but none of them was a match.
Yan Junxun did not reply to Jiang Lian’s update. He only wanted to get rid of the man who had followed him home.
The panda sat on the carpet, showing its digital photo album to Shi Shanyan. Shi Shanyan was truly a friend of the panda as he used his patience to gain the panda’s trust effortlessly. In just the few moments Yan Junxun stepped out of the door, the panda had already given a full account of all the skeletons in Yan Junxun’s closest to Shi Shanyan.
“I used to be an outstanding pet management system. But then the pet shop went out of business, and the original owner sold me to a second-hand system trading center. I was there for many years, and there are plenty of things I can no longer remember as clearly.” The panda’s tone was heavy. “But I don’t think my hometown is here. The environment here is too terrible. Anyway, when I rebooted back to life, I was already Mr. Yan’s indoor system. My life mission is to protect Mr. Yan like I would protect a cub. Here, this is my ID number.”
“You’re too professional.” Shi Shanyan reverently accepted the panda’s ID number. “It must have been exhausting taking care of the cub, isn’t it?”
“That, it wasn’t.” The panda gave Yan Junxun due respect. “Mr. Yan is very obedient.”
“I know.” Shi Shanyan looked at Yan Junxun.
Yan Junxun exchanged gazes with Shi Shanyan.
“I forgot.” Shi Shanyan suddenly fished out a lighter from his pocket and slowly put it on the coffee table. “I have a small gift for you.”
“The lighter is not a good thing.” The panda was too fat, so it could only put its paws on its tummy and looked left and right at them both. “Mr. Yan has to quit—”
The virtual panda suddenly vanished, and the bubbling sound of soup cooking rang out from the covered pot in the kitchen. The entire living room fell silent.
“You can go back now.” Yan Junxun said. “Time to knock off work.”
“Jiang Lian is still sending you messages.” Shi Shanyan motioned for Yan Junxun to take a look. “Perhaps it’s a notification for overtime?”
“I never work overtime.” As soon as the words left Yan Junxun’s mouth, the ID communicator rang. Looking at the unfamiliar number which had materialized on the screen, he gave a slight frown and tapped to connect the call.
A period of silence from the other party greeted him. In these few seconds of silence, Yan Junxun acutely sensed something wrong. He decisively cut off the connection and opened the indoor screen.
Liu Chen’s obnoxious face appeared right before them. He was formally dressed in a western suit and leather shoes, and his hair had been neatly styled. He sat in front of the camera like a human being and said to the camera with a solemn expression, “I now have reason to condemn the Inspection Bureau for dereliction of duty. The mysterious external help they have found knows nothing of detective work at all. A psychological profiler with no credentials is held in high esteem by Jiang Lian, and yet he demands our silence on this matter. I suspect that this mysterious Mr. Yan was also involved in the investigations of other murder cases series. Oh, my god. This is truly unfathomable. There is no way Jiang Lian can ensure…”
Yan Junxun’s heart slowly sank. The window was open, and he caught a whiff of dampness, like the smell before a storm. Two seconds later, his ID communicator rang again. The incessant chime sounded particularly harsh and jarring in the room.
“Get Liu Chen on the line with me.” Jiang Lian stood in front of his office door and said the instant the ID communicator connected. “Delete the videos regarding the psychological profiler immediately!”
“What’s this? A show of might from the authorities?” Liu Chen was very calm on the other end. He said, “On what basis can the Inspection Bureau demand me to maintain my silence? I suspect you are using your position to bend the law for personal gains and engage in malpractices. Don’t even think of trying to shut me up. Just you wait for the alliance to investigate you!”
“Who? Me?” Jiang Lian was so infuriated he just had to laugh. He looked around at everyone in the hall, then turned around to give the door a swift kick. That loud “thud” brought complete silence to the hall. With his chest heaving, he said to Liu Chen, “You’d better delete it immediately and delete it clean. And pray that it hasn’t spread far and wide yet. There won’t be an investigation into me. He came to Tingbo District through the proper procedures. You understand? I’d advise you to start writing your draft now. Fu Chenghui will be looking for you very soon.”
Jiang Lian paused for two seconds when he said his piece. But he was still not done venting his anger.
He violently hung up the ID communicator.
◈ ◈ ◈
Chen Xiulian saw Liu Chen’s homepage while she was having dinner. She did not know what a psychological profiler was, so she entered Liu Chen’s chat room.
Ferryman: [Fuck, I got through! Reporter Liu is too awesome.]
Dozens of messages quickly followed below it.
LIANYIN @ CANGJI.NET : [If you enjoy this novel, please support it by buying it on JJWXC! ♡♡♡]
[He really picked up the call? Did he say anything?]
Ferryman: [He said hello. Hello. Hahaha. I recorded it. Will share it with y’all for free.]
Chen Xiulian swallowed the last bite of rice and clicked to play the audio..
The profiler who had been disturbed was young. His voice was clear, and there was a distant and aloof politeness to it, as if he was keeping the others at bay.
Chen Xiulian silently replied to him. She put down her rice bowl and watched Liu Chen’s video, where she saw the blurry image of Yan Junxun’s profile.
This man wants to catch her.
A strange feeling rose within Chen Xiulian. She looked at Yan Junxun’s side profile. Although it was blurred, he was very fair. He seemed different from all the public figures she knew. Liu Chen said he had participated in many cases’ investigations before.
◈ ◈ ◈
At this moment, Yan Junxun was like a protagonist of a stage play under the lights, with all the spotlights chasing after him.
“Tell the little orange dragon to turn off the message notifications too.” Yan Junxun said to the panda. “And change the original ID number.”
The panda did not answer right away. A few seconds later, it changed into a system mechanical voice and said, “Noted. Temporarily entering ‘Artemis’ Mode. About to activate full protection mode for Junxun.”
However, it did not succeed. The ID communicator was still ringing.
“Request failed. The protection data for ‘Artemis’ has already been deleted. Serial no. 7-001 is still under the review period. Request failed. The protection data for ‘Artemis’…”
The warning alarm in the room was already blaring on a loop with all the lights flashing.
Yan Junxun was very quiet. This silence of his was unnatural.
“The indoor system has been maliciously attacked. The communicator-navigator has already broken away from the system’s main control. Recommend to temporarily discontinue use of…”
The ID communicator-navigator suddenly stopped beeping and entered auto-answer mode. The screen suddenly turned on the camera. It was all pitch-black on the other side of the screen. Static noise gnawed away at the silence in the room, like a swarm of tiny, all-pervasive bugs.
“Hallooo—” The voice on the other end of the screen had been modified through a voice changer. “Let me see, genius—”
Sparks suddenly burst out from the ID communicator-navigator, and the screen went unresponsive. Then, Shi Shanyan turned the camera over and smiled at the other party.
“You want to die?”
The next instant, the communicator-navigator was fried by the electric currents running through his restraint locks and exploded into smithereens. The screen froze on the image of Shi Shanyan baring his dangerous canine teeth before it blacked out. Dead silence descended upon the room as all the systems entered hibernation mode.
Yan Junxun’s pale face had almost been exposed to the camera.