Bingxin and Xiaotao looked at me with amusement in their eyes. In the face of such a coincidence, I was rendered speechless. Spreading my hands, I said, "Let's go and have a look at who’s died because of me."
Fortunately, it wasn’t actually a murder, just two men quarreling. One was a gangster with tattoo-covered arms, while the other was an intellectual in glasses. Just as the big gangster stretched out his fist, the man in glasses stuffed his collar into the other man’s hand and shouted, "Murder! He’s trying to kill me!"
Although we weren’t with the local police, we couldn't just pretend to look the other way. As soon as Xiaotao pulled out her ID, the big guy immediately did a 180. Smiling, he said, "Hey, a police officer! Look, I ordered a stir-fried sea hare, but this idiot here... I mean, this gentleman snatched it from me. He claims he ordered first and wants me to wait twenty minutes!”
Glasses argued tit-for-tat, insisting that he ordered first.
Watching the two argue on and on made my head throb. Xiaotao wasn’t in the mood to deal with such trifles either. Waving her hand, she chided, "Move on! Whoever’s eaten this should settle the bill."
The big guy cursed at his rotten luck and walked off. Just as we were about to continue with dinner, Glasses came up and pointed to me excitedly. "I saw you this afternoon!"
Xiaotao and I exchanged a look of confusion. The only place we stopped by in the afternoon was the station. Who was this man?
To our surprise, he even called us by our names and showed special respect for me, as if he knew about my work. I cut straight to the point, "What do you do?"
"Oh, sorry, I was so excited to meet the Great Detective Song that I forgot to introduce myself." Glasses pulled out his business card which read: famous screenwriter Wu Yang.
Scratching my head, I wondered at the word ‘famous.’ I had never heard of this man!
"Isn't he the screenwriter who’s come to collect information?" interjected Bingxin.
"Oh, it's him!" exclaimed Xiaotao.
With a smile, Wu Yang folded his hands, "Yes, I'm here about the serial murder case from twenty years ago. Gathering information has gone rather smoothly. Ah, it really is a privilege for me to meet the legends of the public security system here. I must buy you dinner tonight!"
I politely declined. After all, in my opinion, screenwriters were no different from journalists–megaphones on legs. While I hinted at Song Xingchen with my eyes, Xiaotao gestured to Wang Yuanchao, motioning for us to withdraw at once. Bingxin moved faster than anyone else, having asked the stall owner for takeout boxes to pack up the untouched food.
To our surprise, Wu Yang beat us to it. When we called for the bill, the stall owner said, "That gentleman settled your bill."
We turned around to see Wu Yang cupping his fist and grinning from ear to ear, his porcelain veneers shining like platinum gold. At the same table was a fat man wearing sunglasses, probably the director he came with.
Rolling her eyes, Xiaotao grumbled, "Oh no, I bet he’ll cling onto us till he gets information! Attention boys and girls, don't reveal our hotel or room number! Especially..."
"I know, I won't go out drinking at night!" Wang Yuanchao took a sip out of his silver flask.
Back at the hotel, Song Xingchen meditated in silence, while Wang Yuanchao amused himself with alcohol and cigarettes. Meanwhile, Xiaotao pampered her skin with a hydrating mask, lying down on the bed with her eyes closed. I read a book, sometimes pacing back and forth as I pondered. Bingxin was the only ‘normal’ person among us, playing with her cell phone while she listened to music.
I was chatting with Xiaotao and Bingxin in our room when a knock sounded on the door. The voice of the man we hoped to avoid interrupted the peace, "Detective Song, Captain Huang, excuse me. I'm Screenwriter Wu. Director Zhang is with me."
Xiaotao suddenly sat up, twisting her face into a grimace as her eyes turned about the room, silently mouthing accusatory words directed at the rest of us.
I whispered, "There are only three or four decent hotels in this county town. All he has to do is ask around. After all, he’s a screenwriter, so he must have his methods with collecting intelligence."
Xiaotao pounded her head in distress, "He must be here for information. How annoying!"
Outside the room, Wu Yang was still yapping away. Since we couldn’t pretend we weren’t here, I had no choice but to open the door. Wu Yang stood there with an annoying smile on his face, followed by a deadpan fat man who claimed to be Director Zhang. The man nodded ceremoniously, the sunglasses on his face resembling a part of his body—always on.
"Yo, Detective Song, taking a break? Why don't you turn on the TV? Beijing Satellite TV is broadcasting a war drama of the Republic of China that I participated in!"
"Bingxin, turn on the TV and turn up the volume!" Xiaotao snapped.
Wu Yang smiled, "Don't! Captain Huang, you’re a funny one. We’re just here to visit you, and also to ask a few questions."
"Just spit it out," I sighed.
"You have half an hour!" added Xiaotao.
Wu Yang eagerly rubbed his hands, but Director Zhang never spoke. Seating himself on the couch, he lit a cigarette and began smoking in silence. I thought to myself, Are all artistic people so unconventional?
Sure enough, Wu Yang had come to collect materials for his show. Although he had seen the file from twenty years ago, many details of the investigation had been left out. Since the director of the Liangchen Bureau was too busy to see to him, he decided to try his luck with us.
In fact, Wu Yang's professionalism was quite admirable, far superior to those writers who made up stories with their eyes closed. Thus, I exercised my patience and sat down to answer his questions.
"I heard that an officer was injured in public, yet he received no pension and fell to a miserable end. What happened?" Wu Yang began.
"What?" I asked in surprise.
Wu Yang lowered his voice, "If I say something unpleasant, will the authorities detain me?"
"Oh great screenwriter, just speak your mind! Interfering with an officer injured in the line of duty and embezzling his pension is a crime. Who’s going to risk going to jail for such a small amount?"
When I asked for the officer's name, he reported the name ‘Nie Yalong,’ an officer involved in the investigation. However, the file mentioned nothing about his injury. It seemed this matter required further investigation.
"Detective Song, there’s one thing I don't understand,” Wu Yang continued. “Why did they release the suspect? Is there more to this than what meets the eye?"
"Oh, don’t be such a cynic. How can there..." I paused abruptly, suddenly recalling that there was no mention of the suspect in the archives of the bureau. What I had in hand was the most detailed version.
My pupils darkened as I stared into Wu Yang's eyes, "How did you know there was a suspect at the time?"
Wu Yang faltered, "The injured officer mentioned it when I visited him."
"What did he say? Did he mention the suspect’s name?"
"It was Song... Zh-Zhaolin, if I’m not mistaken."
"What?" I stood up.Previous Chapter Next Chapter