While waiting for the police, Dali and Luo Youyou sat side by side, whispering sweet nothings in hushed tones as the rest of us looked on.
Dali used to grumble about my public displays of affection with Xiaotao, but now it was his turn. And the guy was laying it on thick! Seeing my good buddy successfully establish his first relationship made me sincerely happy for him.
Bingxin smiled, "I want to fall in love as well!"
"You should look for someone,” I said. “With your conditions, you should have many boys pursuing you!"
Bingxin pursed her lips, "Those boys are all boring and can’t compare to you." Then, she fixed a gentle gaze on me, "Song Yang-gege, I like the feeling you give me!"
"But you can’t always stay this way, can you? You’ll have to grow up sometime,” I chuckled.
She looked up at the sky, "I don't care. I’ll take it one step at a time! If you marry Xiaotao-jiejie in the future, then I’ll look for someone else. But at least I would’ve spent my best years with you. I’m content with just that."
I was touched by her words but I merely smiled in return. The boundary of childhood friends to lovers wasn’t something I was willing to cross.
When the police cars arrived, Xiaotao alighted with a group of officers. Upon noticing Dali and Luo Youyou, she asked in surprise, "What happened?"
"It's a long story. Let’s talk while we walk!"
I asked Xiaotao to send Song Xingchen to the hospital in one of the police vehicles while the rest of us headed to the unfinished residential building where the kidnapped girls were waiting. At the sight of the dead body downstairs, Xiaotao asked, "Who did this?"
I pointed to myself, "It was self-defense. Bingxin can testify to that."
"Song Yang-gege was super brave,” she exaggerated. “With a loud roar, he flashed the Buddha’s Palm and defeated the criminals from a distance..."
Xiaotao laughed and reminded, "Miss Sun, you will have to bear legal repercussions for perjury."
"Oh, I was mistaken. What Song Yang-gege used was the Six Meridian Divine Sword!" Bingxin teased.
"Yes,” I nodded. “It was the Six Meridian Divine Sword!"
Xiaotao turned to the officers behind her, "Handcuff these two and send them directly to a mental hospital."
When we arrived at the eighth floor, I found the man with the broken ribs moaning on the ground, fresh bruises and wounds covering his entire face. Looking at these innocent girls before us, I knew they must have taken turns beating the man to vent their hatred.
The man’s injuries were much deserved so I feigned ignorance and confessed it was my doing.
"Not bad!” praised Xiaotao. “Looks like you don't need Song Xingchen's protection from now on. Maybe I should invite Song Xingchen to work at the Armed Police Force as a chief instructor!"
"His students would most likely end up disabled for life,” I laughed.
The youngest of these girls was only twelve years old. We swore at the ruthlessness of these human traffickers. Held captive for a long time, these girls were starving and thinly clothed. The officers took them downstairs and distributed food and water from the police cars. Many officers removed their coats and covered the girls.
In a bid to publicize a job well done and to improve the bureau’s image, Bingxin snapped several photos that she planned to share on Weibo. Xiaotao was delighted with her plan.
The statements the two traffickers gave were inconsistent. One claimed it was the boss who jumped off the building, while the other insisted the boss was the man I kicked. I didn't intend to continue investigating the abduction and trafficking since a special department of the bureau was in charge of this.
We walked to the foundation where the water had accumulated. When the officers came to take Zhou Yang's body away, I said, "There’s something in the water. Can you get it out?"
Xiaotao glanced at the foundation, "The water is rather deep. We might need a pump to drain it."
"That'll take too much time. I'll try to fish out whatever’s in there, then you can drain it and check to see if there is anything else!"
I found a bamboo stick and hooked a wire at the end, stirring the water till it finally caught onto something. With a pull, a military green canvas bag was revealed. This sort of bag was seldom seen in recent years and the cloth was seriously worn, indicating it had been used for quite a long time.
We found a vacant area to empty the contents of the bag. It was full of soaked photos and a notebook which had to be dried before we could read its contents.
These were all photos of girls. "It's them!" I cried, flickering my gaze towards the rescued girls.
"Who do you think dropped the bag?" queried Xiaotao.
"Whoever fell in?” I speculated. “I’m almost certain it’s Zhang Bing. Let’s ask the traffickers."
I went over with the canvas bag and asked the trafficker whose it was. "Zhang Bing!" he answered without a second thought.
It was just as I expected!
As it turned out, these traffickers needed a local pimp to sell the “goods” when conducting business across borders, so they contacted Zhang Bing. Last night, Zhang Bing came to take pictures of every girl and contacted the buyers. If everything went well, these girls would’ve been sold to illegal establishments as prostitutes and Zhang Bing would’ve received his cut.
He was supposed to meet them today but he never showed up so the gang had decided to wait for him.
Of course, they weren’t aware of Zhang Bing’s death. My guess was Zhang Bing left the abandoned building last night and happened to bump into the murderer who kicked him into the water and pummeled his skull with the mace.
But what I didn’t fathom was the murderer’s motive. Did the murders happen in the spur of the moment? Or was it really related to the ghost bus? Or perhaps it was revenge!
"Half of the people who went on that ghost bus last night are dead.” Xiaotao solemnly urged, “You four must be careful. Should I put you under protective custody?"
"No,” I shook my head. “Dali, Luo Youyou and I won’t leave the store. Once we go back, I’ll install alarms and monitors in the store, and you can watch after Bingxin."
Xiaotao turned to Bingxin, "Miss Sun, your father has been busy as of late. It’s not safe for you to stay at home alone. Please stay at my place tonight!"
"I have a solution that will make everyone happy,” Bingxin giggled. “Dali and Luo Youyou can stay in the store, while Song Yang-gege stays at my place!"
"You just have to push your luck, don't you?" Xiaotao chided with arms akimbo.
The two stared each other down in a battle of wills. I had to be the one to break them up. "Don't worry about that. I’m guessing tonight’s going to be a sleepless night. Don’t forget, the ghost bus appears at midnight!"
"We haven’t found much information on the bus. We tried to match the rumors to the accidents in Nanjiang City but found no incident of a bus plunging into the river,” Xiaotao reported. “The closest match is an accident that happened ten years ago. Because the driver was drunk driving, he had an accident that caused the fuel tank to burst into flames when the bus overturned. More than twenty passengers died that day, and the driver who escaped death faced prosecution by law. In the end, he committed suicide before the trial by jumping off a building!"
"How could he drive a bus while drinking? That’s completely unheard of!"
"Which is why the public condemned him at the time and the driver couldn't handle the pressure. That’s why he killed himself.”
"What's the driver's name?" I asked.
Xiaotao perused through her cell phone and showed me a file. The driver's name was Su Junting. He died at the age of 24. I had never seen the face in the photo, and he didn’t resemble the bus driver from last night.Previous Chapter Next Chapter