When A Snail Falls in Love - Chapter 31[Updated at: 2021-01-11 09:54:59]
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The police car sped through the national highways whilst Ji Bai leaned against the seat with his eyes slightly shut. The drone from the engine and the wind from outside were white noise as he lost himself in his thoughts.
Suddenly, he felt a heaviness on his body, and when he opened his eyes, Yao Meng who was beside him was placing a pink shawl over his chest with her head lowered.
Ji Bai sat up straight.
Yao Meng looked up at him. “How about you sleep for a little longer? You haven’t slept for the whole night, so I’m sure that your body is tired. I’ll let you know when we’ve arrived.”
“There’s no need for that. Thank you.” Ji Bai picked up the shawl and returned it to her.
After receiving orders from the station chief yesterday, the two headed down the highway and arrived at Xiang Chuan County Town early that morning.
The location of the case was Ma Pu Village to the south. Ji Bai had been driving the whole night, so when he got into the car of the County Public Security Bureau, he made the most of his brief free time by taking a short nap.
Outside the window, the morning light was radiant and beautiful. Ji Bai placed his hand on the armrest beside the car’s door as he stared at the scenery racing by. Upon looking at his tall, built physique, and his handsome, composed side profile, Yao Meng felt her heart ache slightly.
After remaining silent for a while, she passed him a stack of documents. “This is the information you asked for, I’ve already arranged them for you.”
“You’ve worked hard.” Ji Bai took it then immediately started going through it.
Yao Meng nodded and did not say anymore. Every time he finished reading a section, she would take the initiative to collect and arrange it. When he needed additional documents, she would speedily search for it before passing it to him. She sat there in silence, like a sous chef to a head chef.
The road in the village was uneven due to potholes and, under the shining of sunlight, the sorghum land looked green and lush. Soon, the group got out of the car and trudged along a small path beside the field. In front of them, a group of chattering farmers had gathered while the local police tried their best to maintain order.
With a sullen face, Ji Bai raised the blockade strip and strode inside whilst Yao Meng hurried after him.
On the empty land beside the crops were small patches of dried blood stains and messy footprints. The victim’s corpse had already been transported to the City Public Security Bureau.
Su Mu was the thirty-something-year-old captain of the County Criminal Investigation Unit. He greeted the two officers then explained, “The deceased is a woman named Ma Rongrong. She was a sixteen years old female from Guang Yi County of H Province.”
As H Province was quite a number of provinces away from Lin City, Yao Meng raised her eyebrow suspiciously. “You managed to confirm the identity of the deceased in such a short time?”
Su Mu answered, “Ma Rongrong had gone missing half a year ago, and she was suspected to have been abducted for human trafficking. Her parents had reported it to the Public Security Bureau, so her DNA data was recorded in the National Crackdown System. Hence, when we took samples last night, we got a match.”
He paused for a while then said, “Ma Rongrong was a deaf-mute girl, and the same goes for her parents, who had been searching the entire country for her after she went missing. From what we know, they are facing a lot of financial difficulties such that when their savings were used up, they started begging for a living. We’ve already contacted them this morning, so they’ll probably arrive tomorrow.”
Ji Bai and Yao Meng did not say anything as Su Mu passed them a stack of photos showing the crime scene.
In the photos, the young lady was shriveled up on the patch of land in front of them. She wore a t-shirt and a pair of jeans that had been washed so many times it had lost its color, and there was a huge patch of blood on her head, which was in sharp contrast to her pale, icy white skin.
Su Mu continued, “We’ve questioned the locals, but nobody has seen the victim before this, so she was probably brought to this village just yesterday. Her entire body was covered in old wounds and her arms and neck showed traces of a struggle. Meanwhile, her clothes were in a mess, and her leather belt was not fastened. Besides that, we’ve also found traces of a man’s footprint, so we suspect that either the transporter or the buyer killed her after an attempted rape.”
The sunlight beat down angrily on their bodies as the local public security officers waited anxiously nearby. The surrounding villagers were even more curious and excited than them as they observed the two young and good-looking detectives who had been specially brought in from the city to investigate the case.
When Su Mu first received the report, he immediately ordered the village’s local police station to seal off the scene. Owing to the fact that the case happened at night and that the place was desolate, the suspect’s footprints were preserved well and were left relatively untouched. Ji Bai crouched beside the set of footprints beside the field, and after pondering for a while, said, “According to the length and depth of the footprints, the suspect is between 165 cm and 175 cm tall, and was wearing leather shoes during the incident.”
Yao Meng crouched beside him with a pen in hand, whereas Su Mu swiftly jotted down what he said in his notebook.
Ji Bai continued, “He’s between 18 and 30 years old, has a slightly fat build, and weighs more than 80kg. He also carried a bag on his left shoulder when he committed the crime.”
Both Yao Meng and Su Mu were stunned and Su Mu quickly asked, “Why do you say that?”
Without looking up, Ji Bai stared at the footprints and explained as-a-matter-of-factly, “The footprints show uniform force exerted from the ball of the feet, indicating steady footsteps, which is the trait shown almost exclusively in young people. The scratches left by the heel and the unevenness in the soil would be more obvious in an older person’s footprint. In addition to this, although the man took small steps, each left and right feet are wide apart and angled away from each other – this is the trait of a fat person. I could also deduce this by comparing the ratio of the length and the depth of the footprints.”
Yao Meng raised her eyebrow and asked, “What about the bag?”
Ji Bai almost immediately pointed at the left footprint. “Each left footprint is slightly deeper than the right footprint, so there are two possibilities, one is that he’s a cripple, second is that he was carrying a heavy item. However, since both footprints are equally distinct, we know that both his shoes are equally worn out, so he’s not a cripple. This means he was carrying a bag.”
As Yao Meng and Su Mu continued to listen, they became a little excited. Since they now had a clue, Su Mu promptly informed his colleagues outside about the culprit’s newly discovered characteristics via his walkie-talkie. The other police officers were in awe when the deductions were explained to them.
Ji Bai walked a little bit further up the field, then he said, “The victim followed the suspect to the scene, since their footprints are side by side. Furthermore, the footprints are clear and evenly paced so there’s no sign of running or a struggle.” Right after he said this, he pointed at two sets of footsteps to his right. “Whose footprints are those?”
Su Mu answered, “It’s the person who reported the incident. He’s Zhang Zhuang Zhi, a 45-year-old local.”
Ji Bai walked over and stared at the footsteps for a moment with his hands behind his back, then he looked at Su Mu. “Get him immediately. He’s not just the person who reported the incident, he was also the buyer. He most likely saw the culprit.”
Once this clue was sent out, the police became spirited, and the villagers likewise burst into discussion.
By now, the sun was shining an almost blinding white, when Ji Bai, Su Mu, and Yao Meng sat in the interrogation room of the County Public Security Bureau. Soon enough, Zhang Zhuangzhi walked in.
He was a short, skinny, sturdy-looking farmer. Su Mu had only just reprimanded him strictly and had only questioned him for a while, but his face was already flushed red and he looked completely frightened.
“My wife passed away many years ago and I heard from someone that he could introduce me to a new, young and beautiful wife. The price was set at thirty thousand yuan.”
Su Mu spat coldly, “You’re quite well-off.”
Zhang Zhuangzhi became a bit embarrassed. “My daughter graduated from university a few years ago and she’s now working at Shenzhen. She sends me one thousand every month. The subsidies given to farmers by the government is quite sizable as well, which is why I was able to fork out the money. Besides, he just said he was going to introduce someone to me, he didn’t mention anything about trafficking. I just assumed that the young women were green-eyed and that they would be willing to stay with me for a few years if I paid them enough.”
Zhang Zhuangzhi explained everything that happened during the incident.
The other party was Chen Yong, who was not a local. Apparently, his appearance was just as how Ji Bai described: he seemed to be in his twenties, and he wore a black sling bag. The two of them agreed to meet at 9 last night at the location of the crime scene.
“That being said, when I saw the girl, I just couldn’t.” Zhang Zhuangzhi looked quite agitated as he recounted the story. “Chen Yong said that she was 22 years old, but when I saw her, I could immediately tell that she was still a teenager. She was even a deaf-mute, and she kept crying as knelt to me as she shook her head in frustration… Chen Yong even slapped her when he saw her signs of protest. Police comrades, the girl was younger than my sister and I was sure that she had been abducted. I would never do such a wicked thing.”
“So, you still have a conscience? What happened after that?”
“Of course I have a conscience… After that, I left. When I walked away, I heard Chen Yong scolding her, saying that he hasn’t been earning because of this mute. Later on, I heard him hitting her, and he did so with vengeance. I was worried for her, so after walking a short distance away, I hid behind the sorghum land. A moment later, I saw Chen Yong running towards the highway before speeding away in his small car. When I went over to check on the girl, I saw that the poor thing wasn’t moving anymore, so I called 110…”
Before the interrogation was over, Su Mu asked Zhang Zhuangzhi, “Why were the clothes of the deceased in a mess. Her belt wasn’t fastened either.”
Zhang Zhuangzhi’s eyes shimmered but he did not say anything.
Yao Meng noticed the subtle change in his expression, so she yelled at him furiously, “Be honest, it’s illegal to hide anything away from us! This is a homicide case, the consequences of withholding information from us are very serious.”
“I didn’t do anything.” Zhang Zhuangzhi hurriedly waved his hands in denial. “I… I told him that I’m not fond of her, but Chen Yong asked me to examine her first, then he stripped her off her clothes and made her kneel on the field…”
Ji Bai obsidian eyes sank deeply as Su Mu grit his teeth. Yao Meng’s eyes burned with rage as she seethed to herself. “Barbaric animal.”
After taking Zhang Zhuangzhi downstairs, Su Mu quickly informed the front-line police officers to proceed with a targeted search based on the leads from the interrogation. Sometime later, he brought two young criminal police officers back to the interrogation room and looked at Ji Bai hopefully.
“Captain Ji, how did you know that Zhang Zhizhuang was the buyer?” A young criminal police officer asked.
Ji Bai answered plainly, “The location of the incident was quite hidden, but it’s not far from the highway and can be easily accessed. Based on the footprints, the suspect and the deceased had arrived at the location together at night, moreover, it’s likely the transporter was the one who chose the location of the deal.”
Su Mu came to a sudden realization and smiled. “Other than their footprints, there was only Zhang Zhuangzhi’s footprints at the scene, so you suspected that he was the buyer.”
Ji Bai nodded. “Not only that, the two rows of footprints he left showed that he went to the scene twice. One of them was even and steady. The other one was messier, and it stopped around ten meters away from the transaction point. He hesitated on the spot for some time.”
Yao Meng added on, “Therefore, the first set of prints is most likely from when he met with the transporter. The second time is when he saw the corpse and reported it after hesitating about his involvement.”
Su Mu and the others felt like they had just been enlightened by a genius as they pondered about what they had just learned. Then, Su Mu said to the other two police officers, “We’ve learned something from Captain Ji today.”
Ji Bai stood up and pat Su Mu’s shoulder before walking outside with them. Just as Yao Meng was about to follow them, she looked up and saw his peaceful, respectful look, as well as the adoring looks from the others, and she smiled. She felt a light pressure tugging away at her heart. The feeling was somewhat sweet, yet densely bitter. It was such that as long as she looked at his side profile, she felt the conflicting emotions of anguish and pride in her heart that was painful to the soul.
After hastily having their lunch, they picked up another clue. In Lin County, some people had spotted a man roaming about who was suspected to be Chen Yong. Su Mu led the team and, with Ji Bai guidance, headed over to Lin County together. Due to Ma Rongrong’s death, a blanket of resentfulness was looming over the heads of the squad. Meanwhile, the criminal police officers did not realize that Ji Bai had already stayed awake for a whole day. Instead, they were eager and determined to get started immediately because a famous detective was joining in their search.
Yao Meng took the opportunity to pull on Ji Bai’s sleeves when nobody else was around. “Captain, do you want to rest for half of the day?”
Ji Bai shook his head said that there was no need to. He wanted to capture the culprit first.
The first two days after Ji Bai left, Xu Xu did not really think about him, and she never thought about calling him or sending him a message. When they were working on a case, everything else had to be put aside. Such was the unshakable, basic work ethic of a criminal police, which was deeply engraved in Xu Xu’s own code of conduct.
The thing that she was more concerned about was how she could help him in solving the case. Consequently, she took the initiative to investigate and analyze information relating to the case, then she compiled them and submitted them to Zhao Hand so that Ji Bai could use them anytime he needed to.
At lunchtime, she accidentally glanced at the encrypted folder that she saved inside the homicide case photos. A few seconds later and she had subconsciously clicked it open and was now staring at his face. After getting her daily fill of Ji Bai’s face, she closed the image again.
A short while later, she opened it again so that she could stare at it for a few more seconds.
Right at that moment, Zhao Hand walked in with a stack of information and said to Old Wu, “The identification report is out. I’ll scan it then fax it to Captain.”
Xu Xu fell silent for some time before picking up a stack of files and following Zhao Han into the photocopying room next door.
The object that needed to be identified was some powder particles found in the suspect’s footprints, which had been sent to the City Bureau by the police from Xiang Chuan County last night. Zhao Han stood in front of the scanner as he carefully checked each page. Xu Xu saw this and offered her assistance. “How about you just go ahead and notify the Public Security Bureau in Xiang Chuan County, I’ll scan this for you, it’ll be faster that way.”
Xu Xu had always been diligent and prompt with her work, so Zhao Han nodded and passed it to her, then added, “Once you’re done, call Captain to update him.”
As she listened to the caller ringtone beep rhythmically on her cellphone, Xu Xu felt a happiness tingle in her heart.
Ji Bai’s phone rang only once before he picked it up. “What’s the matter?”
Xu Xu quickly started. “The identification report is out. I’ve already faxed it to Xiang Chuan Public Security Bureau and have also sent a soft copy to your phone.”
There was a hint of huskiness in his voice, which made it seem hoarser than usual. Xu Xu paused for a moment then said, “Goodbye then.”
“Wait a minute.” He stopped her softly.
Xu Xu went silent and said nothing.
She instantly felt that her heart jump when she heard these words.
Ji Bai was leaning against the backseat of an inconspicuous car at the entrance of an alley in Xiang Chuan County.
He was leading a small team staking out a hotel where a man suspected to be Chen Yong had appeared, but so far, they had not seen the culprit. Presumably, Yao Meng had mentioned to Ji Bai’s situation to Su Mu, so Su Mu made him sleep for a few hours in the back seat of the car with the guarantee that he would wake him up if there was any progress. Meanwhile, Yao Meng and Su Mu stayed in a separate car.
Ji Bai did not decline their offer, but just as he was about to doze off, he was jolted awake by Xu Xu’s phone call.
“Nothing has happened in the city over the past few days, right?” He asked gently.
“Everything’s normal.” Xu Xu replied, “What about on your side?”
“We’re still keeping watch.”
The two of them kept quiet for some time, then Xu Xu raised the question that she was most concerned about. “You sound a bit husky, are you alright?”
Ji Bai held his phone to his ear and looked out at the streets in the county. There were colorful lanterns and noisy passersby, and soon, a smile creeped out from the corner of his lips. “I’m not feeling very well since I drove for the whole night, and I probably haven’t slept in more than fifty hours. I’m actually just about to take a quick rest.”
Xu Xu was surprised but she said nothing.
In actual fact, this was nothing to Ji Bai – there had been times when he suffered more than this. On top of that, he normally made sure never to complain to anyone, but when it came to Xu Xu…’Heh, I’ll let her worry about me for a bit,’ he thought to himself.
As Xu Xu listened to his usual collected tone, she could almost imagine his exhausted yet calm look. This instantly made her feel uncomfortable, such that she unknowingly furrowed her brows.
“Quickly take a rest then, I shall not interrupt you.” She briskly replied. “Other than that, try your best to get enough sleep and eat on time. Also, feel free to contact me if you ever need to. Goodbye.”
Before Ji Bai could say anything, she said, “Teacher, quickly sleep,” before hanging up the phone.
Ji Bai looked at the darkened screen of his cell phone and he could not help but chuckle. After he did so, the local police officer who was seated in the front seat turned to grin cheekily at his superior. “Captain Ji, is it sister-in-law who called to check on you?”
Ji Bai neither admitted it nor denied it, and instead just leaned his fatigue body against the back seat and shut his eyes. He did so with a warm smile on his face. “Women like to worry… In any case, I’m going to sleep for a while, wake me up if anything happens.”