Naturally, Dali brought Luo Youyou along with us. When we were seated at the steakhouse, the waiter asked how we would like our steaks done.
"80% cooked!" said Dali.
The waiter left with a sardonic smile on his face. Meanwhile, Dali endeavored to “educate” us with the supposed facts he had learned. According to him, the usual classification of how one would order a steak–thirty, fifty, seventy and ninety in terms of percentage well done–was wrong. And the right way to enjoy a steak would be either twenty, forty or eighty percent cooked.
"Oh, shut up!” I chided. “Who cares about that! Stop being so pretentious!"
While waiting for our steaks to be served, Dali began clowning around as usual. "Shall we try practicing something? I’ll have to visit Youyou's parents in the future. Dude, play my future father-in-law."
Before I could refuse him, Dali immediately got into character. "Hello, Mr. Luo."
"Do you play Honor of Kings?" I deliberately deepened my voice.
"Yes, I’m already Platinum 4. Do you enjoy playing the game as well? Why don’t we have a go?"
"Get out!” I shouted. “Boys who play games are all good-for-nothings. I won’t allow my daughter to marry you! Get out!"
Luo Youyou seemed amused with my rendition of Mr. Luo while Dali’s expression turned stony. "What are you doing? Why aren’t you playing along?"
"Isn’t this supposed to be practice? How can I make it so easy for you?" I quipped.
"Let’s try again!"
Fortunately, our steaks arrived soon, saving me from having to play this silly game with Dali. The steak and egg sizzled on the iron griddle, delighting the senses. Without hesitation, Dali grabbed his fork and knife and began chowing down on his steak.
Although the smell of the steak seemed a little off, I didn't want to ruin the atmosphere, so I silently picked up my knife and fork, cut a small piece and took a bite. The juices from the tender steak burst upon my tongue, infecting my mouth with the rotten smell of corpses. Unable to control myself, I spat out my food immediately.
Both Dali and Luo Youyou were shocked by my reaction. "Dude, what's wrong with you? Did you eat too much for lunch?" asked Dali.
Instead of answering him, I sliced another small piece and slowly chewed the meat, enduring the nausea that welled up. Aside from the rancid odor, there was a gamey smell, unlike any steak I had ever tasted. I couldn’t help but spit out my food once more.
Unconvinced, I tried a bite of Dali’s steak instead. To my utter disbelief, it tasted exactly the same.
"What is it?" Dali queried.
"There’s something wrong but don't worry about it."
"Is it the steak?" he asked.
"The steak is delicious,” remarked Luo Youyou. “There’s nothing wrong with it."
I took a bite out of the garlic bread and sipped the juice. Everything tasted fine, except for the steak... Or perhaps I should say there was something amiss with my taste buds when it came to the steak.
To verify my conjecture, I called the waiter, "Another T-bone steak please!"
"How would you like it cooked?" asked the waiter.
The waiter froze for a moment, staring at me in perplexity before confirming my order several times and leaving. Well aware that these two would be worried if I failed to explain myself, I said, "I may have been poisoned by something strange so I can’t stomach meat."
"Don't scare me!” exclaimed Dali. “We eat together every day. If you are poisoned, then we are also poisoned... No, I’ll have to eat more now, in case I become like you and stop enjoying good food!"
Smiling miserably, I pushed my almost untouched steak towards him, "Finish it for me then!"
"Song Yang, did you eat something weird during lunch?" Luo Youyou keenly asked.
"I’m still not clear about that. I’ll have to look into it."
A while later, my steak was served. The big, bloody T-bone took a lot of trouble to slice into. I braced myself, taking a small bite. As the juices from the meat spread over my tongue, I found the steak as hard to swallow as a rock and I spat it out immediately.
Regardless of how cooked the meat was, the taste was extremely disgusting. Mr. Huang’s symptoms immediately crossed my mind.
Without delay, I phoned Xiaotao who was still busy with work in the station. “Xiaotao, what are you doing now?" I nervously asked.
"I just finished processing a few documents. What’s up? Do you miss me?" she teased.
However, I wasn’t in the mood for jokes so I went straight to the point, "Have you had dinner yet?"
"Not yet, but my food has arrived..." She stood up to grab her takeout, "I ordered fish-flavored shredded pork rice and it’s really delicious. I’ll have to take you to this place next time... By the way, is there something important?"
"Take a bite of your food first!" I urged.
Xiaotao chuckled, "What are up to…” Then, spitting out her food, she cursed, “What the hell is this? It tastes disgusting! Goodness, I just ate the most revolting thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. How can this be? I must report this restaurant!"
Sure enough, the three of us had the same symptoms. "Something weird has happened. I suspect it has something to do with the lunch we had at your father’s place. I'll come over right now."
With that, I headed down to the station and went straight to Xiaotao's office. Several officers gathered around the table, sampling the takeout. "Captain, this tastes completely fine. In fact, it’s delicious!"
It seemed Xiaotao had discovered her abnormality as well.
Upon noticing my presence, she instructed, "You can all leave first. And take the food with you. I don’t have an appetite right now."
The officers took one last glance at us, lips curling in a mischievous smile before they left.
"Dali and I went for steak when I encountered the same thing. Looks like we both have whatever this is."
"This is really bizarre,” mused Xiaotao. “Did someone do something to our taste buds?"
"What did you eat in the morning?"
"Buns and soy milk," Xiaotao replied.
"Was it a meat bun?" I asked.
"Yes!" nodded Xiaotao.
“We didn’t do much today or eat anything out of the ordinary,” I recounted. “My guess is the problem lies with your father's bottle of wine."
Frowning, Xiaotao seemed lost for words.
"Are you familiar with the person who gave your dad that bottle of wine?" I continued.
"Not really, but my dad has known him for many years and he often visits. I don’t believe he would hurt my dad. But then again, this isn’t considered poisoning. I mean, is there a poison capable of causing an aversion to meat?"
"Let’s see… What are the components of meat? Protein, iron, glycogen... Let's do an experiment to find out what this poison does!"
While Xiaotao headed to the supermarket to do some shopping, I went down to the Necropsy Workshop to prepare for our experiment. A while later, Xiaotao returned with salt, red cabbage and milk. Pounding the red cabbage, I squeezed out the juices and collected it in a container. After diluting it with salt, Xiaotao and I tasted the samples one by one. As soon as we got to the milk, I found the taste extremely nauseating and spat it all out at once.
"It seems the problem lies in the protein!" surmised Xiaotao.
I picked up the milk carton and said, "No, milk also contains glycogen. Let’s rule out the sugars first."
"Should I get sugar?" Xiaotao asked.
"Glycogen is also known as liver glycogen which differs from the sucrose we use in daily life. The closest thing to that is glucose!"
Xiaotao exclaimed, "There’s glucose solution in the forensic laboratory!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter