Xiaotao and I stared at the old man, never imagining that the tetanus shot and gecko had such meaning. Even I hadn't seen these two pieces of key evidence in any versions of the file. How could the murderer know?
"Officer Nie, who else have you told these things?"
Interrupted mid-conversation, the old man looked very impatient. "I’ve never told anyone,” he frowned. “Although I’m not wearing a police uniform now, I’m still a policeman in my heart. I would never tell these secrets to an outsider."
"But since we entered the room, you haven't asked us for our identification!" Song Xingchen hit the nail on the head.
The old man paused, suddenly bursting into a temper and chasing us out the room. It was no wonder people say one behaves more and more like a child towards the end of one’s life, throwing a tantrum over the slightest issue. I coaxed the old man while Xiaotao went out to get a pack of Zhonghua cigarettes.
As soon as he laid eyes on the cigarettes, the old man delightedly lit one on the spot and continued with his story on cloud nine.
On the night of the fire, he, Officer Xiao, and Officer Sun from Nanjiang City were drinking. Officer Sun had rented a separate space because the other expert had a strange temper and required absolute silence during the autopsy process. Thus, the evidence was also stored there.
The three people were in a good mood that day since “Song Zhaolin” was about to be convicted, and the good people of Liangchuan City would no longer have cause for panic. All of a sudden, someone yelled fire! They turned to look, only to discover that it was the evidence room.
They immediately rushed over and found that Song Zhaolin had set the place on fire. Officer Sun grabbed Song Zhaolin by the shoulder and demanded why.
Afraid that the evidence would be destroyed, Officer Nie rushed in to save them. Unfortunately, he was hit by a burning beam. After being rescued, he found himself burned beyond recognition and could no longer walk.
What was even more depressing was the fact that a few days later, all charges against "Song Zhaolin" were dropped. The man was no longer considered a criminal suspect. However, Officer Xiao insisted on returning justice to the dead girls and was suspended.
Because “Song Zhaolin” was cleared of suspicion, Nie Yalong's injury wasn’t deemed work-related, so he couldn’t receive his pension. Although his colleagues donated a sum of money for the injury, it would’ve taken 500,000 yuan for him to stand up again, which he couldn’t afford!
Thus, the case faded just like that. After the experts from Nanjiang City left, Officer Xiao shouted, "How unfair the heavens are!" three times in front of his fiancee's grave before committing suicide.
The news of his death deeply affected Nie Yalong, on top of the fact that he had become a cripple. He could only live on meager social relief funds, subsisting on tobacco to escape from reality.
And “Song Zhaolin” who was still at large was put under the spotlight in the newspapers, receiving much glory for his crimes. Every time he thought about it, the old man hated it to the bone.
At this point, the old man clenched his fist and pounded his wheelchair. Afraid that he would hurt himself, we quickly stopped him. "It was Song Zhaolin who killed my partner and ruined my life. Even after I’m dead, I’m going after him!" he gritted his teeth.
Hearing such anger directed at Grandpa left a bitter taste in my mouth. He hated Grandpa so much that in his chaotic memory, the suspect had become Grandpa.
Although I didn't want to reopen the old man’s wounds, I had to correct his memory. "Who was the other expert from Nanjiang City?"
The old man shook his head, so I asked, "Was it Song?"
"I don't know, I can't remember."
"What were the characteristics of ‘Song Zhaolin’? Does he still live here now?"
The old man frowned as he muddled up the suspect’s characteristics. One moment he was tall, the other short; he had dead fish eyes and tiny eyes like mung beans...
Xiaotao sighed, "There’s no point asking him. Those with dementia have confused memories. They can't tell who’s who."
Still unwilling, I handed the pack of Zhonghua to him and said, "Thank you, old man. Take this, it’s for you. Shall I put it under your bed?"
"Hide it. Don't let the nurse find it!" he waved his hand.
After hiding the cigarettes, I quietly stole his notebook, tucking it under my arm. Xiaotao looked on with a knowing smile.
Upon leaving the room, I turned to Song Xingchen, "When Grandpa died, he didn’t leave anything behind. At the time, I was too young to check his accounts. Could you get my aunt to check his transactions before his death?"
"Yes... but are you sure about this?"
If Song Heting knew about this matter, she would certainly intervene. "Just make up something. Tell her one of the police foundations wants to verify it."
Song Xingchen shook his head, "This won’t fool her. I might as well come clean!"
"Alright then," I nodded.
"Why the sudden interest in his transactions?" asked Xiaotao.
I sighed, "I don't believe Grandpa was such a cold-blooded man. Confirming this would make me feel better."
"I know you don’t want to hear this but no one is perfect,” Xiaotao patted me on the shoulder. “No one can go the entirety of their life making zero mistakes so you don't have to feel too upset about this."
Outside the building, a man walked up to me and smiled, "You’re done with your questions? It didn’t go well, did it? My dad's all confused now.”
The man was Nie Yalong's son who had previously left a terrible impression. Additionally, I was too upset to play nice. "What can I do for you?" I asked.
Rubbing his hands, he broke into a wide grin. "To tell you the truth, I have an important piece of information here. If you’re willing to pay a thousand yuan..."
"You’re talking about intelligence fees to an officer of the law?" Xiaotao raised her voice.
"Hey pretty lady, don't give me that crap,” he snorted. “My dad has been an officer all his life, so I’m not a complete idiot. I don't know what you’re investigating, but it’s got nothing to do with my dad or me. I have no obligation to provide information for free."
"And what information could be worth a thousand yuan?"
He licked his lips, "My dad has been very popular these past few days. He has met three people. Would you like to know who they are?"
I didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to guess that. Two of them were the screenwriter and directors. Who was the other? It didn’t really matter.
"Sorry, I don't want to know,” I smiled. “Keep it to yourself. Maybe you can sell this piece of information at a higher price in the future!"
Just as we were leaving, the man panicked and stretched out his hand to stop us. "Don't leave! No one else cares about this information! My dad met Song Zhaolin two days ago!"
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