“Who fired the shot?” asked Sun Tiger.
“It was Wang Yuanchao!”
The killing of the negotiating expert meant that Li Wenjia refused to negotiate. Sun Tiger immediately grabbed the walkie-talkie and shouted, “Xiaowang, don’t look into her eyes! Get out of there now!”
He had to repeat the message several times before we heard the answer, “Roger!”
I had an ominous hunch about this. A few minutes later, a police officer walked out of the paper mill. He looked slightly off, though. There was a gun in his hand. Sun Tiger was about to approach him to ask about the situation inside, but I quickly stopped him.
“Wait! He could be hypnotized. Tell everyone to step away from him!”
Everyone was startled and began to spread out. Most pointed their guns and rifles at Xiaowang.
“Put the gun down, Xiaowang!” shouted one of the team captains.
“Drop the gun, Xiaowang!” echoed Sun Tiger. “Don’t do anything stupid!”
Xiaowang suddenly raised his gun and was about to fire, but Sun Tiger shot first and the bullet hit Xiaowang. He shook like a leaf and collapsed. Red blood pooled around his lifeless body.
The realization that he’d shot down one of his comrades hit Sun Tiger hard. He punched the roof of a car until it dented and cursed at Li Wenjia.
“This is a provocation against all police officers!” he snapped. “I swear that I’ll bring this woman to justice no matter what!”
I gritted my teeth in anger. Li Wenjia seemed to be an unbreakable fortress!
When I looked up at the pitch-black sky, an idea popped up in my mind. I looked at the time—it was five o’clock. I told Sun Tiger and Xiaotao about my plan, but they refused it outright.
“No, I can’t let you take the risk,” said Sun Tiger. “How will I ever face your grandfather when I die if anything happens to you?”
“But this is the only way that we can defeat her!” I insisted. “Unless you ignore the safety of the hostages and attack the paper mill now!”
Sun Tiger still hesitated. Both choices just cost too much.
“No,” he said. “I promised your grandfather that I’d keep you safe. I can’t let you go in there and fight the psychopath yourself!”
A voice from the walkie-talkie interrupted us. It was Li Wenjia.
“Good evening, everyone!” she said.
Everyone was shocked. Several young officers even raised their guns at the walkie-talkies in panic. This showed how deep a fear the police felt towards this woman.
“I know you must be raring to kill me right now,” Li Wenjia taunted. “But there’s just nothing that you can do! It’s so boring in here. Well, I have a suggestion…”
I could tell what she was about to say. And sure enough, she said, “Let Huang Xiaotao come in. Once I kill her, I’ll surrender with no conditions.”
Sun Tiger grabbed the walkie-talkie and shouted, “You are not qualified to order us around! Don’t you dare provoke us again or you’ll meet an ugly end!”
As he spoke, a captain of the special squadron desperately shook his head and signaled him not to further anger the criminal. At that moment, we heard another gunshot coming from the paper mill. Everyone was startled.
“Another hostage just died,” said Li Wenjia. “What will you do, Officer Sun? Will you sacrifice the lives of dozens just to save one officer?”
Sun Tiger clenched his fist in fury. He gnashed his teeth and trembled in anger. Suddenly, Xiaotao stole the walkie-talkie in Sun Tiger’s hand and said, “This is between you and me, Li Wenjia. Don’t involve the others. I’ll go inside and meet you right away!”
“Good! I’ll be waiting for you!”
After that, we heard another gunshot and a buzz from the walkie-talkie. Most probably, it was Wang Yuanchao shooting the walkie-talkie inside. This meant that there was no more negotiating. I could picture the scene of Wang Yuanchao standing beside Li Wenjia like a deadly and obedient puppet and I shuddered to the core.
Xiaotao put the walkie-talkie down and said, “Sir, there’s no turning back now.”
Sun Tiger stood silently for a few seconds. His eyes were brimming with tears when he pleaded, “I order both of you to come back alive!”
“Yes, sir!” Xiaotao answered. Her eyes shone of steely resolution as she gave him a salute.
In addition to us, several special squad officers voluntarily followed us too. Li Wenjia didn’t say that we weren’t allowed to bring anyone else anyway. Sun Tiger told us to put on bulletproof vests, but I told him it would be unnecessary since Wang Yuanchao’s marksmanship would render it useless and it would only hinder our movements.
Xiaotao and I were both given a walkie-talkie, so everyone outside could follow the situation that was going on inside in real time. Additionally, Xiaotao was given a spare gun that was taped to the inside of her clothes just in case. Sun Tiger gave her permission to kill Li Wenjia if necessary.
We crept into the dark paper mill. There was a dim light in the distance inside the warehouse. As we went further, we saw the lifeless body of the negotiator lying on the ground.
“Song Yang,” whispered Xiaotao. “I believe in you, and I believe in your plan. You’ll surely be able to seize Li Wenjia. Trust yourself. Don’t hesitate even if she kills me in front of you. You must bring her to justice!”
“No, I can’t do that,” I replied. “When this is all over, I still want to taste your barbecued pork ribs.”
Xiaotao smiled and said, “Fine!”
As we walked in the darkness, the special squadron officers went ahead of us and scanned the surrounding with their rifles in their hands. Suddenly, one of them shouted, “There’s someone up there!”
The others aimed their rifles upwards, where we saw a row of people standing on a beam. They all stood there motionless as if they were lifeless puppets. It was a chilling sight to behold.
“Put your guns down!” ordered a voice from the warehouse. It was Li Wenjia.
We searched all around us for her, only to find that the voice was coming from a loudspeaker. As everyone looked at each other and hesitated, Li Wenjia continued, “I will count to three. If you don’t put your gun down, these people will all jump to their deaths. One. Two…”
“Put down your guns!” Xiaotao ordered.
The officers lowered their weapons. Then a figure approached us from the darkness—it was Wang Yuanchao! He raised his gun and fired a shot at an officer. The bullet passed straight through the officer’s eyebrows and he fell limply to the ground. Everyone panicked. Without blinking, Wang Yuanchao shot the second time and it hit another officer.
When his aim moved to the third officer, Xiaotao jumped in front of Wang Yuanchao’s gun to block the bullet. The moment Wang Yuanchao saw her, he came abruptly to a halt. He looked like a robot that had been turned off. It seemed that the command he received was to kill everyone except Xiaotao.
“Li Wenjia!” shouted Xiaotao. “I’m the only one you want dead! Stop killing the others!”
I heard the crisp sound of fingers snapping, and the gun in Wang Yuanchao’s hand dropped instantly.
“My brother was the only person I had left in this world,” Li Wenjia said. “He was all that I had, and you deprived me of him! I want you to experience the pain of losing everything you have!”
“Why do you have to do this?” Xiaotao shouted. “Do you think you’ll be able to escape with your life if you kill us all?”
“None of that matters,” she answered. “I’ve been consumed by this rage for a long time that I’m no longer human. All I want right now is to be reunited with my brother…”
“Then let all these people go!” pleaded Xiaotao. “I’ll stay here! You can do whatever you want to me!”
“The noble Officer Huang,” snorted Li Wenjia coldly. “How admirable!”
“What are you waiting for?” Xiaotao asked the other officers who were still standing. “Run!”
They hesitated for a few seconds, but Xiaotao kept urging them to leave, so they finally ran.
“Why don’t you leave too, Song Yang?” asked Li Wenjia. “Are you going to sacrifice yourself for your love?”
“No,” I replied calmly. “I’m here to catch you.”
“Song Yang!” whispered Xiaotao.
Li Wenjia laughed.
“You’re overconfident, little detective!” she said. “Did you think that I’d fall for your clever little tricks? Wang Yuanchao—"
“That’s strange!” I shouted before she could finish her sentence. “Why are you afraid of showing yourself to me?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter