Chapter 417: Expert Thief

"Someone bumped into her?" I pondered the possibilities.

Song Xingchen blurted, "Could someone have stolen her gun at that time?"

I instantly connected the dots. Holding the two sugar shakers on the table, I pointed out, "You mean the man stole Xiaotao’s gun and exchanged it for another, replacing the new gun into her holster. The two guns had exactly the same shape, weight and inscription. Xiaotao pulled out the replacement and fired into the sky. Meanwhile, the real murderer used her gun to kill Qin Aonan, then switched the gun back at a certain point?"

"What amazing sleight of hand. Is it possible?" asked Dali.

Song Xingchen explained, "During the Republic of China, expert thieves could thread lightning through a sewing needle, that is, aiming the needle at a bolt of lightning the instant it appears in the sky. Another special skill is to mix a mung bean in a handful of soybeans and throw it into the air. The experts could grab the mung bean instantly with only two fingers. But these are all tricks in the Jianghu. Nowadays, thieves don’t have masters. If Nanjiang City really has such expert thieves, there can’t be more than two or three of them!"

Wang Yuanchao nodded, "If that’s the case, we can narrow the scope. I’ll check with my informant in the Jianghu."

"This person works for the Dog Trainer and must have been brainwashed,” I said. “Look out for thieves who have mysteriously disappeared for some time!"

Dali interjected, "Can’t you tell us more about the people assassinating us? Will our lives be in danger?"

I shook my head, "Not for the time being. I will try my best to deal with the Dog Trainer. By the way, are your phones all dual SIM standby?"

Except for Wang Yuanchao who used an old-fashioned cell phone, the rest of us had dual SIM standby phones. I instructed Wang Yuanchao to purchase a new cell phone which I offered to pay for. We had to prepare new SIM cards to facilitate communication.

The five of us sat there for a considerable amount of time and the waiter came to ask for our order several times so Bingxin ordered some coffee.

After the waiter left, I continued, "Aside from Xiaotao, were there any other traces of gunpowder?"

"No,” replied Wang Yuanchao. “I asked around privately and they only found gunpowder on her!"

"I visited the scene this morning and noticed several bay windows above the crime scene which were good vantage points..."

Wang Yuanchao sighed, "I’ve checked them. The residents are elderly folk."

I couldn't figure out how the murderer fired the gun. The effective range of Xiaotao’s gun was only a hundred meters. Even if the murderer was a sharpshooter, the environment determined that he couldn't be too far away.

Leaving this aside for the time being, I wondered out loud, "When do you think the gun was replaced? At that time, I was at the scene. There was no one near Xiaotao. Later, the police came and removed her gun. And these were officers I personally knew. They can’t be working for the Dog Trainer. Unless it was switched on the way to the ballistics center. Or perhaps Professor Li is the one working for the Dog Trainer. I plan to meet up with him to confirm my suspicions."

"I know his home address!" Wang Yuanchao interjected as he jotted it down on a cigarette paper.

I assigned our little group separate tasks. Song Xingchen and I would continue to deal with the Dog Trainer while Bingxin had to come up with ways to mobilize the resources of the Public Security Bureau and track down the Dog Trainer. Wang Yuanchao had two tasks–the first was to locate the thief and the other was to verify Wang Xuebing's identity.

Only Dali could remain leisurely. He pointed to himself and asked, "Song Yang, what should I do?"

"Nothing, just stay at home."

"But, I want to contribute as well!" he protested.

Upon second thought, I said, "Alright, I’ll give you a task. Go get Baldy. I'm planning to kidnap someone!"

As soon as the words fell from my lips, the others looked at me in astonishment. "I’m going to use the Dog Trainer’s methods against him. I want to kidnap one of his dogs, brainwash him into a normal person, and obtain information about the Dog Trainer from him. This sort of thing is best left to a man like Baldy.”

Dali frowned, "Isn't this... illegal?"

"Oh, who cares about that now!" 

Having recently researched this, I briefly explained the matter and instructed Dali what to do.

At the end of our rendezvous, I said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t let anyone else know our plans. What we’re about to do goes beyond the limits of the law, so we must be extra careful!"

"To restore Xiaotao-jiejie’s innocence, it doesn’t matter even if we end up in handcuffs!" Dali patted his chest.

After the five of us said our goodbyes, Bingxin turned to me and shouted, "Song Yang-gege, you must be careful!"

It was still early in the day so it wasn’t convenient to visit Professor Li. Since we hadn’t eaten yet, I suggested to Song Xingchen, "Let's have something to eat, my treat. I've known you for so long, but I still don't know what you like."

"Green peppers and shredded potatoes," he replied.

At first, I thought he was joking. After finding a restaurant nearby, we sat down to order. I didn’t think the two of us could stomach a sumptuous meal of meat and fish so we each ordered a green pepper and shredded potato rice set and two cups of bubble tea.

After lunch, I turned to Song Xingchen, "Get me a weapon for self-defense."

"There’s no need for that. I will protect you!"

"Just get me one. I can't always rely on the Eyes of Yama. I've been drinking so much milk I have excessive heat in the body," I smiled wryly.

"Then I’ll bring you something tomorrow morning," agreed Song Xingchen.

We took a cab to Professor Li's neighborhood where I asked around about his appearance. At about six in the evening, Professor Li came home with his briefcase. 

I walked up to him and greeted, "Hello Professor Li, there’s something I’d like to ask you."

Professor Li frowned, "And you are..."

The staff at the material evidence center didn't usually have much contact with me so they didn’t know me. I showed him my identification which assured him at once. When I asked about the ballistics results, Professor Li instantly refused, "These are confidential and I’m not allowed to say anything to anyone unless you are involved in the investigation!"

"Let’s not talk about that,” I smiled. “I’d like to ask you some personal questions. Have you been working in the material evidence center throughout the year?"

"Yes, what's the matter?" Professor Li fixed a suspicious gaze at me.

"Have you heard of the name Dog Trainer?" I added.

"Who is that? A pet seller?" He seemed unaware.

Judging by his body language and use of words, he wasn’t lying. It seemed that he wasn’t working for the Dog Trainer. "Who came into contact with the gun on the way to the ballistics center?" I continued.

"I can’t disclose that. Officer, what's going on? Don't you believe in my ballistics report? You have seriously exceeded your powers by asking questions like this. I am an officer of the law as well. You have no right to doubt me." Professor Li appeared downhearted.

"I know what I’m doing doesn’t conform to regulations but please help me. The suspect is my friend and I’m trying to clear her name!" I pleaded.

"Young man, I understand your good intentions but there are some things I can't disclose. I’m really sorry."

When Professor Li walked away, Song Xingchen whispered to me, "Do you want my help?"

"No, no,” I shook my head. “Forget it."

I was walking out of the community, dejected by my failure when I felt Song Xingchen nudge me. Turning around, I noticed a piece of paper had fallen from Professor Li’s briefcase just as he was unlocking the door. He turned a blind eye and entered his home.

Picking up the paper, I realized it was the contact information and addresses of several assistants in the ballistics center. I smiled, bowing deeply to the door, "Thank you, Professor."

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