Chapter 149: Xiaotao’s Birthday

After Qu Tingting’s case was resolved, Bingxin would often send me text messages telling me that her dad forced her to go home every day after class and it made her feel like she was under house arrest. They quarreled a lot since Bingxin secretly joined the investigation without her dad’s permission. I could understand Sun Tiger’s feelings though. He’d been a police officer for decades and had been through countless life-threatening situations on duty. It was unsurprising that he would be seriously concerned about Bingxin’s safety and thus banned her from getting involved in a case investigation.

Dali kept looking at me with a strange expression on his face these few days. It really annoyed me and I didn’t know what was wrong with him this time.

“Hey, dude!” he said to me one day. “Tell me your secrets!”

“What the hell are you talking about now?”

“Come on,” he continued. “You don’t usually even talk to girls. How did you get so popular with the ladies all of a sudden? Did your ancestors leave you some secret techniques to seduce women or something?”

“Fuck off!” I cursed at him.

“I can guess what you’re thinking all day,” he continued to blabber. “Who should I choose? On one hand, I’ve got a sexy as hell police officer; on the other hand, there’s this cute girl that I’ve known ever since she was a little girl! What a dilemma!”

“I don’t have any seduction techniques,” I told him. “But I do have a technique to determine the time of death by the decomposition stage of the corpse. Care to learn?”

Dali squeaked and ran back into his bed.

The dilemma that Dali imagined was ridiculous of course. I had always regarded Bingxin as my sister and that was it. But with Xiaotao, we’d been through so many life-threatening situations together. She had a special place in my heart that no one could ever replace.

Time crept up on us and before we knew it, it was already November. The days got colder and the students began to wear thicker clothes. It would be Xiaotao’s birthday soon. On that day, I remembered that she once mentioned about wanting a red rose, so I went to a florist with a plan to buy one for her. The florist told me that red roses were only given to people who were officially in a romantic relationship, and that it would be a better idea in my case to get pink roses instead.

Thus, I bought a small bouquet of pink roses and texted Xiaotao to ask her if she was free tonight.

“Why?” she immediately responded. “Are you planning a surprise for me? Come over to my place! Let’s have a small birthday party tonight!”

That night I stood in front of Xiaotao’s door with a racing heart, waiting for her to answer the door. Holding a bouquet of roses along the way there was particularly embarrassing. About a minute after pressing the doorbell, Xiaotao opened the door. She was wearing casual clothes. When she saw the bouquet in my hand, she gasped with excitement and smiled brightly.

“You’ve changed so much since I first met you, Song Yang!” she remarked. “Come in! The food is ready!”

“It smells delicious!” I exclaimed.

The dining table was full of tasty-looking food in paper boxes. It was obvious at first glance that they were takeaways. That was only expected of course. Xiaotao was way too busy at work to cook herself.

She didn’t have to work overtime tonight, though. I noticed that she had a bottle of French red wine on the table and had lit a few scented candles that were placed all over the living room. Xiaotao looked especially beautiful under the dim candlelight. I could barely take my eyes off her.

“Happy birthday, Xiaotao!”

“Thank god, I’ve survived another year!”

“You shouldn’t say such ominous things on your birthday!”

We drank to her health. Then Xiaotao had a cheeky look on her face and I knew she was on to something.

“Hey, I’m the birthday girl today, so you should do whatever I ask you to!”

“What do you want me to do?”

She leaned over and murmured, “Sing the birthday song for me!”

I scratched my head nervously and replied, “What? You want me to sing?”

“Yeah!” she responded. “I’ve never heard you sing before!”

It was her birthday so I had no choice but to comply. I sang, or rather croaked, the birthday song as she clapped along and laughed. I was immensely relieved when it was finally over.

“Well done!” cried Xiaotao. “I recorded it all! It’s going to be my new ringtone from now on!”

“No, please!” I begged. “How will I face anyone ever again if you do that?”

“I’m only teasing you,” she sniggered. “Come on, let’s drink!”

We were just about to clink our glasses together when her phone rang. She frowned and answered it immediately.

“A new case?” I asked once she’d hung up.

“Uh huh,” she sighed. “Looks like I can’t enjoy this meal with you tonight. Can you stay here and wait for me? We can still watch a movie together when I come back.”

“Why don’t you bring me with you?” I suggested. “Perhaps I can be of some help to the case.”

“But it’s not a homicide,” she said. “Two gangs were in a fight and a dozen people were hurt. We were called to deal with the aftermath.”

“A gangster fight?” I was surprised. “You must take me with you! I’ve never seen gangster fights before!”

“If you insist,” Xiaotao replied. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

We got into the car and headed to the scene. Many police officers were already there. I had expected to see a bloodbath with the ground strewn with injured men who’d lost their limbs and pools of blood and inner organs everywhere. But reality was much tamer than I imagined. There were indeed splatters of blood here and there, but the men were already under the police’s control and there were officers questioning two men. One wore a trench coat while the other had a big shiny bald head. Both of their arms were full of colorful tattoos just like what you’d see on yakuzas and gang members in movies. 

“I told you, Officer,” said the man in the trench coat. “We weren’t fighting! We’re just good buddies who got a bit too drunk and had a bit too much fun!”

“That’s right, Officer!” echoed the baldy. “We’re so joined at the hip we practically wear the same pair of pants! We were definitely not fighting!”

“You’ve injured a dozen people, you’ve damaged four or five food stalls on the side of the road, and you’ve smashed the glass windows of several shops! Is that what you call having fun?”

“Come on, Officer!” the man in the trench coat argued. “Have you never gotten wasted before? Don’t worry, Officer! I’ll pay for everyone’s medical expenses and the damages!”

“What are you talking about, Trenchy?” the baldy interjected. “My brothers are responsible for the damages. I should be the one to pay for everything!”

“You’re a good friend, Baldy!” said the man in trench coat. “I’ll treat you to a nice meal later!”

“There’s no need for that, Trenchy!” the baldy laughed. “Stop acting like we’re strangers! Come over to my house and my wife will cook a nice meal for us!”

The two continued to pretend being good friends in front of the police. Xiaotao approached the group and the officers gave way to her immediately and greeted her as ‘Officer Huang.’ The man in trench coat mockingly saluted at her and greeted her, “Good evening, Officer Huang! I haven’t seen you in a long time! What fateful wind blew you here?”

“Drop the act, you bastards!” she snapped. “Who are you trying to fool? Everyone knows how much your gangs hate each other!”

“The animosity is between our bosses,” Trenchy responded. “It’s got nothing to do with us. Me and Baldy here are great buddies!”

It was obvious that these two gangs were fighting. But when the police arrived, they immediately pretended that they were as close as brothers. The underworld gangs weren’t afraid of anything under the sun except the police. They could hack and kill people without batting an eye, but when faced with the possibility of being thrown in jail, they tucked their tails between their legs and did whatever they could to avoid punishment.

An officer approached us with a big bag containing dozens of kitchen knives with bloodstains on them. 

“Huang-jie,” the officer reported, “these are the weapons we found…”

“Whose knives are these?” Xiaotao asked the two men.

Trenchy feigned being shocked and said, “I’ve never seen those knives before! Baldy, are they yours?”

Baldy shook his head frantically and replied, “All the knives in my kitchen are tinier than these! The nail clipper is the only thing I carry when I go out of the house!”

I was genuinely amused by their acting skills.

“In that case,” said Xiaotao, “why don’t you each tell me whose knives these are? Whoever identifies the most knives will be forgiven for the damages done this time.”

The officer spilled all the knives to the ground. The two gangsters looked at each other and smiled politely. Trenchy was the first one to pick out a knife.

“I’ve seen this knife before, Baldy,” he said. “I’ve seen you hold it before.”

Baldy’s cheek twitched and he picked out another knife.

“I’ve clearly seen this knife before,” he said. “You once pulled it out of a folded newspaper once!”

“I’ve seen this knife before! Your mother used it to chop her vegetables!”

“I’ve seen this knife before! It was used for your father’s circumcision!”

“This knife was used to cut your father’s dick!”

“This knife was used by your whole family when they slit their own throats!”

Xiaotao’s idea backfired. They were now at each other’s throats. At first the officers watched on with amusement, but the two men got more and more violent and Xiaotao grew more and more concerned. Trenchy and Baldy eventually both picked up a knife and lunged at each other. The police quickly stopped them, but they finally dropped their act and hurled insults at one another.

“We’ll never forget what happened today, Baldy! Our boss will wash his feet with the blood of the Black Panthers!”

“You cowards! We’ll avenge the death of our boss with the death of the Blood Wolves!”

Xiaotao interrupted them immediately and asked Baldy, “What did you say? Your boss is dead?”

“No, no, no!” Baldy quickly denied. He obviously realized that he’d made a grave mistake. “Our boss was injured by them and he’s lying in the hospital right now.”

“Don’t listen to his bullshit!” Trenchy argued. “Their boss got into trouble with someone and died a humiliating death. They blamed us for it for no reason at all and that’s why they’re out for us!”

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