Chen Shi asked, “Officer Liu, how long have you lived here?”
“Well, almost ten years.” Officer Liu said with a sigh, lighting a cigarette. “Sometimes I feel like a hunter, chasing this beast for over ten years. Other times, I feel like I’m almost like a beast myself.”
“You are a good policeman!” Chen Shi said with admiration.
“I can’t accept that title! I can’t!” Police Officer Liu waved his hands again and again. “I'm trash. I haven't solved the case after so many years. I haven’t been able to get an explanation or justice for the victims and their families… By the way, do you want the information I have here? I can give them to you unreservedly.”
Chen Shi said, “I have a favor to ask that might be unwelcome. Could you let us borrow this house for a few days? That would save everyone from going in and out. The things you’ve organized here are very professional and easy to understand.”
Officer Liu immediately removed a key from his keychain. “No problem. I’ll give the key to you. I’ll just spend some time with my mother for the next few days. If there’s any progress, please contact me as soon as possible. I want to see this bastard arrested more than anyone else.”
There was the sound of a car from outside. Officer Liu rushed to the window and looked out. “This Mazda is his car. As soon as I hear it, I know it’s him. I’m not bluffing. Even if Liu Hong coughed downstairs, I’d be able to tell it’s him.”
The three looked out the window. The young monk suddenly pushed the door open and ran out. Xu Xiaodong asked, “Is he going to do something impulsive?”
“Stop him!” Lin Dongxue exclaimed.
The three immediately ran downstairs and saw the little monk standing in the middle of the road in the neighborhood conducting a Buddhist ritual towards the Mazda. A big man with a pudgy face showed half of his body and patted the body of his car as he scolded, “Fuck your mum! You really know how to pick people to beg for food, huh? Get lost, you stinking monk!”
Liu Hong had a bulky figure and was wearing a floral shirt with a thick gold chain on his neck. There was a woman sitting in the front passenger seat. She has a standard Internet influencer’s face with a sharp chin, big eyes, and a thick face of make-up that seemed like it would crack when she smiled. She was most likely his lover.
The little monk stood still as he kept staring at Liu Hong's face. Liu Hong took fifty yuan out of his wallet and threw it to the ground. “Get lost! Get out of here! Go and find a prostitute to fuck!”
Then, he started the car and the young monk jumped aside.
When Liu Hong left, the three came forward. Lin Dongxue asked, “Little Master, what are you doing? You scared us to death.”
The little monk frowned and his eyes welled up with tears. “Yes, it was him. The man who killed my father back then was him. I can't forget that face even after all these years!”
“He will definitely get the punishment he deserves!” Chen Shi consoled.
Chen Shi told Xu Xiaodong to send the young monk back first. The young monk said he could go back by himself, so the three returned to the room. They began to read the information left by Officer Liu. There was a large amount of information. The three kept looking through it all until 2:00 in the afternoon. They were seeing double by then.
Xu Xiaodong slumped in his chair. “Aiya, I wasn't even this tired when I was preparing for the exams in school. Are you guys hungry yet? I'll order some takeaway to eat!”
“Just order some random stuff as you please!” Chen Shi said, “Come on, let's talk about our individual findings.”
Lin Dongxue began. “I started looking at the disappearance in 1998. I summarized Liu Hong's history towards his build-up of wealth. He was an illegal dog dealer selling dogs along the streets for over nine years. Later on, he got two Tibetan mastiffs and started breeding them himself. The Tibetan mastiff market was fired up in those few years. He made a small fortune and started his own pet shop. Liu Hong's real fortune was the sale of a Tibetan mastiff sub-breed called the snow mastiff. I checked it and the snow mastiff is very valuable. Nowadays, each one can be sold for more than 30,000, while ordinary mastiffs are worth only three or four thousand. However, Liu Hong's snow mastiff bloodline didn’t seem to be very pure. From 1998 to 2007, the missing people around Liu Hong included three competitors, a CKU dog pedigree appraiser and his wife, a vet who is the father of the young monk, a staff member of the epidemic prevention station, a lawyer, and several others whom I can’t draw a connection on. After several disappearances, Liu Hong was the only one who sold snow mastiffs in Long’an City. The price stabilized at 25,000. The motivation is too obvious.”
Xu Xiaodong said, “It seems that his killings are all purposeful and aren’t the same as the psycho killers who kill for pleasure.”
Chen Shi responded. “I’m guessing the snow mastiffs he sells are fake. For the sake of his wealth, he kept eliminating people who hindered his development. To him, murders have become a way to solve any difficult problems he faces. The more you kill, the more you become proficient at it!”
“What did you find?”
“From 1998 to 2015, there were more than 30 disappearances. I organized them and summarized the three stages of Liu Hong's murders. The first stage was from 1998 to 2000. He only killed a competitor who was the dominant player in the dog trading business at Long’an at the time. The victim even had a dark triad background. I think this killing had a big reactive component to it. In the second stage, from 2000 to 2007, his killing motive was very strong. During this time, he gradually became the largest dog dealer in Long’an. Then, there was a blank period of about three years before more disappearances occurred. The missing people came from all walks of life. The only common link between them was Liu Hong. This was the stage where he was cleaning up his loose ends and history.”
“What!?” The two were shocked.
“I noticed that the third group of missing people were similar in age to Liu Hong. Some of them were from the same village he came from. They were all doing fairly well in their careers. I’m guessing that this group was his friends or even part of a gang. They knew Liu Hong’s history, so after killing the outsiders, he began killing these friends to clean up any loose ends they would bring with them. This way, they’d disappear forever with the secrets they knew.”
Xu Xiaodong took a breath and said admiringly, “We are all looking at the same information. How can Brother Chen see so many things from it?”
“Maybe because your girlfriend keeps texting with you,” Chen Shi remarked casually.
Xu Xiaodong was ashamed. He was indeed texting Little Li and lazing around for a bit.
“However, what we are discussing right now are only missing persons cases. There are no corpses and we have no knowledge of the method he used. We also have no way to infer whether this was committed by a single person or multiple people.” Chen Shi sighed.
“Yes, the key to finding the bodies would be to go to Liu Hong's dog farm, right?” Lin Dongxue pondered.
“It's too abrupt if we just barge in just like that! We have to find a reason...” Chen Shi muttered.
“What reason? In my opinion, we should go over in the middle of the night to investigate!” Xu Xiaodong said.
Lin Dongxue’s cheeks twitched. “All the dogs there are Tibetan mastiffs! I don’t dare to go in late at night with them around.”
“Let’s take a look at the place before discussing how to go about it.” Chen Shi suggested.
In the afternoon, the three arrived at Liu Hong's dog farm in the suburbs. When they saw the name, on the sign saying “Xiaotian Purebred Dog Breeding Base”, Chen Shi said, “The name is really crazy!”
“Are all of them Xiaotian dogs?” Xu Xiaodong asked, “How do we get in? Do we have to pretend like we’re buying dogs?”
Chen Shi looked around and saw several staff members inside. Of course, dogs couldn’t be bought directly here. They would probably be kicked out if they were to walk in. There were no other buildings around. This barn was located in the middle of nowhere and barking could be heard from miles away.
He murmured, “It looks like we’re going to have to stray from the right path this time!”
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