As soon as I returned from Fujian, I went to see Xiaotao first thing. She teared up with joy upon my safe return. "From now on, you’re not allowed to leave Nanjiang City without my permission!" she declared.
“Alright!" I chuckled.
The Infernal Bone Trader left us no time for rest. His actions proved how important and urgent the establishment of the special team was.
I handed the list of proposed personnel to Sun Tiger who seemed to have no opinion on the matter. "Two days ago, the State Council issued a document–Notice Pertaining To The All Out Fight On Crime. Ever since the economic reform, there have been quite a few criminal organizations on the rise. Our special team will cooperate with the country's anti-crime operation. I’ve managed to win you some goodies!"
He handed me six special team IDs as well as six black cards. Although I had never used them, I heard they were a rare credit card issued by the central bank, with an overdraft limit of 500,000 and certain special privileges.
"From now on, your salaries will be paid directly by the Ministry of Public Security. Each person will receive 30,000 yuan a month with insurance and bonuses allocated by the State Council if you make substantial contributions to the anti-crime operation. What do you think of all this? Not bad eh?"
My business partnership with Dali afforded me a monthly income of 60,000 to 70,000 yuan. But to be fair, what they were offering was considered a hefty sum for a public institution.
"Uncle Sun, does that make me an officer of the law?" I asked.
Sun Tiger chuckled, "Of course not. I’ve repeatedly stressed to my superiors that you’re just a consultant. I don't quite understand the ancestral laws of the Song family but I respect it."
Observing one’s body language was a basic skill of min, and Sun Tiger’s smile seemed a bit stiff.
"Uncle Sun, don't worry. Bingxin-meimei won’t be out there on the frontlines,” I assured him. “I promise to abide by your rules!"
"It’s not Bingxin I’m worried about,” Sun Tiger waved his hand. “I’ve something to tell you but I’m not quite sure if now is the right time..."
Upon my insistence, Sun Tiger sighed, "After the Dog Trainer was killed, we found a tiny card in his pocket. The front of the card showed a German Shepherd on its belly, and the back was a bloody machete. We’ve determined it’s an identity card from the Jiangbei Daggers! According to the Dog Trainer’s subordinates, there are seven agents like the Dog Trainer in the organization, known as the Seven Kings!"
"The Seven Kings?" I mused. Up till now, Nanjiang City was still suffering from the repercussions of the Dog Trainer’s attack. Many police officers had yet to fully recover from their physical and mental traumas. Could there really be six other criminals just as powerful and evil as the Dog Trainer?
"Don't take it too seriously, kiddo,” advised Sun Tiger. “There’s no conclusive evidence yet, which is why I didn’t want to say anything. In my opinion, it’s probably false."
"Anyway, all we can do right now is strategize and act according to the circumstances!" I said.
Sun Tiger nodded, "Yes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Eradicating this malignant tumor overnight is impossible."
After saying goodbye to Sun Tiger, I handed out the IDs and black cards to each member. Despite different reactions, we were all excited and eager for the establishment of the special team. Xiaotao actively mobilized the resources at hand and prepared to build an office space that would be convenient for future assembly.
At the same time, I had to fulfill my promise to Xiaotao, that is, to visit Mr. Huang. Although Xiaotao and I hadn’t officially expressed our feelings for each other, in the eyes of others, we were clearly in a relationship.
Actions spoke louder than words, and I didn’t mean to pay lip service. So I made an appointment to visit her over the weekend.
On that day, I got up early in the morning, showered, shaved, and put on a suit that was neither too casual nor formal. I made sure to wear the watch Xiaotao gifted me last year and grabbed the gift I prepared.
Xiaotao wasn’t on duty today but she had something to deal with at the station so she told me to drop by.
As soon as I arrived at the station, some of the officers I was well-acquainted with teased, "Hey, Consultant Song! You’re all dressed up today. Are you going on a date?"
"When will the two of you tie the knot? We’re still waiting for the wedding invites!"
Cheeks colored with embarrassment, I politely replied before texting Xiaotao to inform her of my arrival. Explaining that I would wait for her in the lobby, I stood looking out at the cloudless sky when a man suddenly stopped me. "Hello there, are you a policeman? Do you know the chief? I have a case to report."
The man was about thirty years old, his face red with panic.
"You don't have to go to the chief to report a case. Just go straight to the front desk!" I answered.
"No, no! This is something terrible. I can't just report it to anyone. What if they come for revenge? I have to speak to the chief!" insisted the man.
"Alright then, what’s going on? Let's hear it," I chuckled.
Eyeing his surroundings suspiciously, the man stopped talking at once. I pulled out my identification and said, "It’s alright. You can tell me what’s going on. I deal with criminal matters."
"Y-you have to keep it a secret,” he frowned. “I’m here to report about a restaurant..."
He pulled out a plastic bag containing a soup dumpling which had already been bitten.
"There’s a restaurant selling soup dumplings with human stuffing!" he cried.
His words reminded me of Chef Tang whom we once dealt with. Was there another monstrous cannibal in Nanjiang City?
When I asked the man where he purchased the soup dumpling, he refused to speak, but the plastic bag clearly had the word 'Guihe Garden' written on it. These crab soup dumplings from Guihe Garden was the most authentic in the city.
If Guihe Garden was really making soup dumplings with human stuffing, then this would be a major case. Chef Tang’s stall was incomparable to Guihe Garden which was an old restaurant that probably sold tens of thousands of soup dumplings every day. How many people would have consumed human flesh each day?
"Pass me the soup dumpling and I'll check it out, alright?"
After hesitating, the man finally relented. I brought the soup dumpling to the Necropsy Workshop and bumped into Xiaotao on my way there. She was wearing a coat and a beautiful dress today with her hair in an updo. "Sorry for making you wait! Let's go!" she said.
"I was waiting at the entrance when a man walked in and said he had something to report. I’ll only take a few minutes!” I waved the soup dumpling in the air.
"What's wrong with this soup dumpling? Does it have human stuffing?" Xiaotao asked in surprise.
"You’re right, that's what the man said." I gave a wry smile.
When we entered the Necropsy Workshop, I filled a beaker with water and heated it on the alcohol stove. Putting on a pair of rubber gloves, I broke the soup dumpling in half and took a whiff. It smelled of crab roe, pork and spices–nothing out of the ordinary.
As soon as the water started boiling, I dropped some of the stuffing into the hot water.
"What is this?" asked Xiaotao.
"An oil test! In fact, this is an ancient method of testing human flesh, that is, observing the oil that floats to the surface of the water. Ordinary livestock show a circular pattern. Because of different fat densities, human sebum is semicircular," I explained.
"Wow, that’s amazing!" exclaimed Xiaotao.
The oil in the water had a circular pattern, suggesting this was pork. "Maybe he’s crazy. This sort of false report happens every day. Someone once claimed he was a wanted criminal and told us to arrest him. Later on, we realized it was a couple of middle school students up to mischief so we taught them a lesson."
The man’s nervousness was genuine so perhaps he was mentally ill. However, something about the case made me ill at ease so I decided to open up the dumpling and spread the pieces and stuffing on a tarpaulin.
"Is there something wrong?" Xiaotao leaned in.
There wasn’t anything suspicious with the meat itself, but the stuffing contained an ingredient I didn’t recognize–it was thin, brittle, white and very stiff. It would definitely scratch the throat when ingested.
Upon further examination, I realized how familiar the fibers on the surface looked. Wasn’t this a human nail?Previous Chapter Next Chapter