When A Snail Falls in Love - Chapter 58

[Updated at: 2021-01-11 09:55:08]
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Chapter 58: Chapter 60 & Chapter 61

Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

Although the vast mountains, lush green grasslands and endless landscape all remained untouched, the winding mountain road was not as peaceful as it used to be.

Vans with “XX TV station” and “XX newspaper” plastered across their sides raced along the road. Moreover, there were groups of college students who made their way up the mountain, either on bike or on foot. The whole atmosphere was very noisy and tense.

Ji Bai frowned and asked, “What happened?”

Zhao Han quickly hung up the phone and answered, “I just heard the news myself. A group of students were the first to discover the body – turns out, the deceased was a college student as well. The news has spread throughout the entire city, and as such, volunteers from several universities have gone to the mountain to participate in the search. Da Hu and the others are now doing their best to stop them.”

Although the police officers had stopped most of the people at the foot of the mountain, many people had gone up the mountain before they had arrived. The narrow mountain paths were now crowded with vans and groups of college students could be seen everywhere.

By the time Ji Bai and the others arrived at the crime scene, it was already in the afternoon. They slowly waded through the throngs of reporters and students who were now waiting outside the blockade to attempt to get to the mountain trail. When they saw Ji Bai and the others, the flashlights got even brighter and some students shouted out loud. “When will the police catch the serial killer?”

Ji Bai maintained a straight face and did not answer the question, instead leading several senior criminal police officers and Xu Xu straight to the crime scene.

The crime scene was a secluded cave which the police unit had already lit up with spotlights. The body was lying deep inside the cave in the same position and with the same peaceful expression as the previous two victims.

Over the past few days, Da Hu had been moving around the forest area, so when he saw the rest of the team, he immediately came forward. “The deceased was a year four student at Lin University called Chen Hongmiao.”

Then, Da Hu briefly talked about her background. Shen Hongmiao was originally a member of Lin University’s Outdoor Sports Association. Ten days ago, she went hiking in the mountains by herself. Since the forest area was so large, the patrolling police officers did not know which route she had used either. Two days ago, her classmates realized that she still had not returned despite it being past her scheduled return date. They also could not contact her. Because of this, they spontaneously organized a search party to comb the mountains. They also contacted the local police force but they did not expect to find her body that soon. Some villager must have leaked the fact that more than one person has already died. Thus, the situation became this chaotic.

Ji Bai, Old Wu, and Xu Xu walked to the body. The forensics detective quickly wrapped up his test and told them, “The initial estimated time of death was between 8.00pm to 10.00pm last night. Just like the first two victims, the cause of death was potassium cyanide poisoning; her other injuries are basically the same.”

Xu Xu asked, “Is it possible for the murderer to delay the time of death?”

The forensic doctor shook his head. “No. Potassium cyanide is a relatively potent toxin. A person will die within 58 seconds of taking it, leaving behind some unique reactions on the skin as well as eyelids. These symptoms are not affected by temperature or humidity. Therefore, the estimated time of death should be accurate.”

Everyone fell quiet. They looked at the corpse again and saw some messy footprints all around the soil. Da Hu sighed. “The students left it behind.”

Old Wu was an expert at tracking footprints, so he knelt and carefully checked the perimeter of the body. After a while, he raised the flashlight in his hand and pointed at the ground next to the corpse’s waist. “Look. Doesn’t this look familiar?”

Their eyes immediately fell on a shallow footprint planted in the soft soil. Xu Xu immediately pulled out the photo of the footprints found next to the second body. Old Wu did a comparison and nodded. “The length and pattern of the footprints are identical – both footprints were left by the same person.”

Da Hu looked towards Ji Bai and frowned. “Captain, it seems like Lin Qingyan really isn’t the murderer.”

Ji Bai did not answer him. Instead, Old Wu stood up and said, “That’s not necessarily true as there are still two possibilities. Firstly, Lin Qingyan is indeed innocent. Secondly, Lin Qingyan has an accomplice.”

Even so, Xu Xu knit her brows and replied, “That possibility is too small… What are the odds?”

Everyone looked towards her and heard her say extremely solemnly, “Based on the murderer’s methods, he values forming close relationships with the deceased. This relationship is personal, private, and exclusive to him. Psychopath almost always works alone as sharing is meaningless to them.

“However, if Lin Qingyan doesn’t have an accomplice, then it means that there is a second person who perfectly matches the criminal’s profile. In other words, you’re suggesting that two people with the exact same profile had appeared at the same time and place. This probability is really…”

Before she could finish talking, Ji Bai interrupted her. “Focus on the evidence, Xu Xu.”

Xu Xu felt her heart tighten and looked over to see him scanning their surroundings with a calm expression. “This case is relatively complicated, so we should not make any fixed assumptions for the time being as it will only mislead us. We will focus on the evidence for now.

“Firstly, based on the time of death, we know for a fact that someone else had killed Chen Hongmiao. Secondly, Chen Hongmiao entered the mountain ten days ago, but her body was only found today. During this period of time, we had police forces all around the mountain area, but we did not notice any suspicious vehicles entering or leaving. This shows that the house that the murderer used to imprison her is in the mountain area.

“I will immediately request for a larger police force to search the entire area. When we find the murderer’s base, all our doubts will be cleared.”

Everyone’s spirits were lifted and even Xu Xu’s mind suddenly cleared up. At this moment, Ji Bai’s mobile phone rang and he picked it up. “Station Chief… Yes, I understand, I will come over immediately.” He hung up the phone and said, “I need to go to the province to report the case directly to the provincial government and the Provincial Public Security Department. In the meantime, Old Wu, you take over and help lead everyone. Also, the Provincial Criminal Investigation Unit might want to take over the case.”

Everyone nodded and Zhao Han asked, “Our colleagues from the police station said that Lin Qingyan’s time in custody is up, so they had no choice but to let him go.”

Ji Bai nodded briefly, then turned around and left. After taking a few steps, he turned around once again to look at Xu Xu, whereby she nodded at him to acknowledge that she would take care of herself. Only then did Ji Bai stride off.

Shortly after Ji Bai left, the officers at the crime scene received news that the captain of the Provincial Criminal Police Unit would personally oversee the case while Ji Bai would be his assistant.

The sky had already gotten dark by the time the captain of the provincial unit arrived at the scene. After this, police cars filled with officers from every city and county likewise slowly started to trickle into the area. The captain echoed the wishes of the director with a loud, booming voice. “Get ready to set off. We must find the murderer even if we have to turn the mountain upside down!”

At night, Xu Xu, Old Wu, and the others hurriedly finished their dinner before arming themselves with bulletproof vests as well as batons. Xu Xu looked at the thick bullet-proof padding and knew that she would get exhausted if she needed to wear it for an extended period of time. After a moment of silence, she decided not to wear the vest and went to look for the provincial unit’s captain.

As she arrived at his van, she saw the captain talking into a mobile phone while rubbing his forehead. “Why didn’t you tell us that your wife is pregnant? I was wondering why you were calling me so urgently. No problem, I understand. I’ll let her stay in the backline and handle the logistics…”

Xu Xu was slightly stunned and instantly felt a warmth in her heart. Then, she turned around and went back.

The next time Xu Xu saw Ji Bai was on the following night.

That day, the mountains seemed to revert back to it’s calm and peaceful state. The students had been persuaded to leave and the media was now under control, they were much less restless. Only a few dozen newspapers and broadcasting agencies were allowed access to specific regions in the mountain area. The provincial department also hoped that they would publish some objective and positive news that would appease the public.

Hundreds of police officers were scattered all over the mountains as they continuously searched without resting. The area was only a few thousand kilometers long, but it was impossible to properly comb through in such a short period of time. As such, there had not been any progress on the case so far.

Old Wu and the others went out while it was late at night as Xu Xu temporarily slept in a row of farmhouses at the foot of the mountain along with all the police unit’s logisticians and media personnel. While she was sleeping soundlessly, she heard Ji Bai making a phone call outside the house. “…Yes, I just got to the foot of the mountain. Ok, then I’ll wait for you to pick me up.”

Xu Xu immediately got up and saw Ji Bai pushing open the door to the house. The moonlight shone on his face and he looked very tired. However, his eyes were still bright and sharp.

“I’ll leave immediately after taking a rest.” His voice sounded a little hoarse.

Xu Xu got out of bed and poured him a glass of water. Then, Ji Bai pulled her into his arms and gulped down the water in one go. “Is everything okay these days?”

“Nothing’s happened so far. What about you?”

“What could happen to me?” He smiled.

The two of them remained silent for a while before Xu Xu sighed. “I have been thinking about this murderer for the past two days, but I still can’t figure it out.”

Ji Bai was almost always on the road over the past two days. Even when he was in the provincial department, he had to report to the higher uppers, such that he did not have time to ponder the case. When he heard her say this, he simply nodded. “I still have some time, let’s analyze it properly. Where’s the paper and pen?”

Xu Xu immediately pulled out a pen and paper from under the pillow along with a few photos of the crime scene. Ji Bai thought of the child in her stomach and could only smile bitterly as he caressed her head.

Xu Xu listed down the screening criteria that she previously came up with. Ji Bai looked at it attentively and after pondering for a moment, raised his head to look at her. “What was the sentence again? After excluding the impossible, you will be left with the truth, regardless of how improbable.”

Xu Xu nodded.

Ji Bai smiled. “Thus, even though you said that the possibility of two people who fit the description appearing at the same time is minuscule, it has happened. The second person certainly exists. If we catch him, the suspicion surrounding Lin Qingyan and the truth behind the case will all be revealed.”

He took the pen from her hand and began sketching. “I’ve always thought that your screening criteria was good, but not perfect. You see, not all conditions screened. For example, we can make a list of people who have recently suffered from severe illnesses, but we there is no data on people who have recently suffered a huge setback in their career. I think that’s the reason we missed the culprit.”

Xu Xu was shocked. Her mind was spinning fast and she blurted out before he could finish writing on the paper, “So, this person is someone who recently suffered a great setback in his career; he’s also likely to be a college student who was a hardcore forum user during the year of the ‘Angel Killer’ incident. The reason why we don’t have records of him entering or exiting the forest is because he lives in the forest area. This is also why he’s so familiar with the place – he has a house here!”

Ji Bai finished writing on the paper at the same time she finished talking. The two of them lowered their head to look at the paper and saw that they both mentioned the exact same points.

They stared at each other and immediately saw the excitement in each other’s eyes. Ji Bai got up and made a phone call. “It’s Ji Bai. Check those who work or live in the mountain area within the age group of 22 to 26 years old. He just graduated from university and he was recently demoted or punished at work. He wears size 42 shoes and has a car as well as his own house. He might be a forest guard, a teacher in the area, a firefighter, a patrolling police officer or any public officers…”

The police officer on the other end of the phone was in charge of handling the information back at the station and was understandably a little confused. “Captain, who are you looking for? Why do you know all this…”

Ji Bai did not bother to reply. “Get me an answer as quick as you can.”

After hanging up the phone, he remained silent for a moment before saying, “I’m leaving.”

Xu Xu nodded. “Take care of yourself.”

He looked at the environment outside of the small farmhouse. It was quiet, and the midnight glow made the place seem very calm, eerie almost. Then, he turned around to look at Xu Xu. “Since the identity of the murderer is still unknown, it’ll be safer to have police officers patrolling nearby. Try to stay in the house and do not wander around casually.”

Xu Xu nodded.

At noon two days later.

The autumn sunlight was warm and bright. Its radiance flooded the mountains, making them seem rich, vast and boundless.

Xu Xu had spent the whole morning at the farmhouse at the foot of the mountain sorting out information on the case with several other colleagues. Upon seeing that it was already noon, she returned to her room to rest. Then, she picked up her phone only to see that she had an unread message.

It was Yao Meng. “Are you staying in the farmhouse at the foot of the mountain? I’m at the mountain with my colleagues too, and I’d like to meet you for a chat later. Will you be free?”

Xu Xu immediately understood – Yao Meng’s magazine agency had also been granted access to the mountain area. She immediately dialed Yao Meng’s number but saw that the line was busy.

Yao Meng was on the phone with Lin Qingyan.

She had gone to the mountain earlier today. Since her magazine agency focused on women’s health and lifestyle, this serial killer case was naturally a very hot topic among her readers. Not to mention, she had a background in criminal psychology so she could draw conclusions with more depth and accuracy than a typical reporter.

However, she was also acting for personal reasons. If they could find the identity of the mountain killer, then she would be able to help clear Lin Qingyan’s name. Hence, she enthusiastically went about her work.

That being said, Lin Qingyan did not actually know that she was going to the mountain, he thought that she was working overtime in the office. Only when she called him did he notice that something was off. Understandably, he was rather unhappy. “Why did you go there? The murderer hasn’t been arrested yet, it’s too dangerous.”

Yao Meng was currently sitting in a car with two colleagues, parked at an empty area near the foot of the mountain. The space was being temporarily used as a parking lot. There were a lot of cars and people around them, so it was crowded and noisy. She laughed and replied, “I’m alright, I’m in a safe space with my colleagues. Besides, it’s not like the police would let us into dangerous places anyway.” She then shifted the topic and asked gently, “Did you take your medication on time?”

On the other side of the phone, Lin Qingyan fell silent. Then, he calmly replied, “Yes I have. Wifey, come home soon. The mountain is unsafe, I’m worried about you.”

Yao Meng was not done conducting the interviews yet, but after hearing his low voice, she felt pity and had a sudden urge to see him. Seeing that it was still early, she finally nodded and answered, “Mmm, I’ll come back now then.”

“Take the main road and leave your phone on at all times.”


After Yao Meng hung up, she turned to her two colleagues. “I’ll return to the city first. You guys continue with your task and call me if there’s a problem.”

She drove away from the foot of the mountain, and after a short while, she spotted the police roadblocks ahead signaling the start of the main road. Just as she was about to call Lin Qingyan to let him know that she was safe, she noticed Xu Xu’s missed call.

“Xu Xu, I was on the phone just now.”

Xu Xu was worried as she could not reach Yao Meng. She almost called the police patrol unit to ask them to look for her, so when she heard her voice, she breathed a sigh of relief.

Previously, after talking to Yao Meng, Xu Xu had read Lin Qingyan’s statement whereby he admitted that he had approached Yao Meng with ulterior motives. Although she was unsure about whether Lin Qingyan was related to the case, she felt uncomfortable whenever she thought about him. She initially wanted to remind Yao Meng about her advice, but after realizing how busy she must be in addition to the fact that Yao Meng was now looking for her, she dropped it. “It’s alright. When are you coming over? I have something to tell you too.”

Yao Meng was going to tell Xu Xu that she was on her way back to the city, but upon noticing her nervous tone, Yao Meng bit her tongue and instead asked, “What do you want to tell me? It’s alright, you can just say it.”

Xu Xu paused for a while then told her about Lin Qingyan and Feng Ye’s relationship, she added on, “I just thought that you needed to know this.”

Yao Meng remained silent for a moment then replied, “Thank you, Xu Xu. However, when Qingyan returned from the police station that day, he had already told me about it. He… has told me everything. Now, I just want to spend his last moments with him.”

Xu Xu took a deep breath. “Nonetheless, I still think that you should be wary of him.”

Yao Meng felt a little bit annoyed, but she quickly suppressed it and said, “How about we meet and talk. Where are you?”

Xu Xu thought she was near the mountain, so she quickly gave her the address. Yao Meng memorized it and nodded. “Alright, I’ll call you when I’m there.”

Xu Xu replied, “Okay. I’ll pick you up at the farmhouse door.”

In the meantime, Ji Bai and ten other police officers were deep in the forest on the mountainside. They sipped on plain water and took huge bites of their dry rations. While everyone’s faces were dirty and weary, all their eyes glowed with the same determination.

“Is everyone done eating? Let’s move.” Ji Bai stood up and said in a low tone. At this instant, his phone rang.

It was his colleague from Lin City’s IT Division, his voice had an irrepressible excitement. “Captain Ji, we really found someone who matches all the conditions!”

“Spit it out!”

“Tan Liang, 25 years old, a Forestry University graduate. Earlier this year, he was demoted from the County Forestry Department to become a mere ranger in the forest – he must have made some mistake at work. He has a car, lives alone on the mountain, and his labor insurance records state that his shoe size is 42. Oh right, the victim of the second case was found in the area he’s in charge of. In fact, he’s still on the mountain right now…”

Soon enough, Tan Liang’s photo and address were sent to Ji Bai’s phone. In the photo, the young man wore a dark green ranger uniform and a pair of glasses. He looked young, clean, and neat, and also had an extremely composed expression. At first glance, there was nothing odd about him at all.

Ji Bai quickly barked out orders, “Send the photo to the leaders of every search team and tell them to keep an eye out for this man. We have no evidence right now, so take him into custody if any of you encounter him.”

Tan Liang’s solitary house was located high up the mountain. The spacious courtyard was quiet but for the sound of the birds chirping, and a few blue cement rooms were painted warmly by the sunlight which cut through the light fog.

Under Ji Bai’s lead, they surrounded the house from all directions. When he gave the order, they charged forward together, storming into the house armed to the teeth. However, they were soon disappointed to find the house empty. Where was Tan Liang?

Ji Bai scanned their surroundings carefully. The house was decorated very simply, and everything was clean and neat – there was nothing unusual about the place. A few minutes later, an officer got off the phone and reported to Ji Bai. “The Forestry Department said that they haven’t been able to contact Tan Liang since yesterday.”

In the beginning, the others did not understand why Ji Bai had made Tan Liang his primary suspect, but after seeing that he had now disappeared without any reason, they too began to suspect him as well.

Right then, another criminal police who was supposed to check the courtyard ran in and shouted, “Captain Ji, I just spotted some tire prints. He drove down the mountain in a car from the Forestry Department!”

Ji Bai eyes widened, and he yelled, “After him!”

Ji Bai led his small team dashing down the mountain, where they encountered a police patrol about halfway down. After talking for a while, the police officers mentioned that a ranger’s vehicle had indeed passed by three hours ago.

Ji Bai looked toward the direction that the car had headed off to and his heart immediately tightened – the farmhouse that Xu Xu was staying at was in that direction.

He immediately got into a patrol car and attempted to call Xu Xu over and over again, but each time it said that the line was busy. The signal was intermittent in the mountain so before long, he lost connectivity.

At the same time, the situation at the foot of the mountain was no longer peaceful as a number of police cars raced back and forth desperately looking for Tan Liang’s traces. One of the patrol cars went straight to the farmhouse before stopping; Ji Bai opened the door and rushed out, dashing into the courtyard as quickly as he could.

There were supposed to be two local police officers on duty at the courtyard, but they were nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, Xu Xu’s room door was slightly ajar, and it was quiet inside. Ji Bai held his breath, then he took big strides toward it and flung it open with a loud ‘bang’.

The rays of sunlight and silence only helped emphasize the emptiness of the room.

Ji Bai felt his heart sink as he desperately turned to look at the police officers who had entered with him. “Where is she? Where is she?!”

Nobody could answer him, so Ji Bai’s darted outside with a ghastly pale face. At the same time, he took his phone out to call her again. This time, the call went through and Ji Bai halted abruptly as he heard her voice through his phone. “Ji Bai…” She sounded like she was trembling.

“Where are you? Are you alright?”

“I’m on the mountain road, I’m fine,” Xu Xu’s breathing seemed to heavy as she replied, “but something might have happened to Yao Meng.”

Ji Bai hurried to the location Xu Xu had given him. It was a remote mountain road, and by the time he arrived, more than ten other police officers were already gathered there. Xu Xu was right in the middle of the crowd, her face pale as snow – she had already lost contact with Yao Meng by the time she received the photo of Tan Liang.

By the side of the mountain road was a ranger’s vehicle, the license plate verified that it belonged to Tan Liang. However, nobody was inside it. Other than that, there were also skid marks on the road next to it, which were probably caused by somebody pulling the emergency brakes. An officer soon came over and told Ji Bai, “Captain, the tire marks match the tires from Yao Meng’s BMW.”

It had already been a couple of hours since Tan Liang had left the mountain, which meant that Yao Meng had most probably been kidnapped some time ago too.

Ji Bai stared at the tire marks on the ground for a few seconds before looking up, his eyes burning with rage. “Notify everyone, track that car!”

Sometime later, Yao Meng slowly regained her consciousness. Nevertheless, her head was still heavy, and she was still unable to open her eyes. She was aware that this was the after-effect of anesthesia.

She slowly tried to put together bits and pieces of her memory – she had turned the car around… then a green ranger vehicle burst out from the side of the road. She got down to check on the driver, and a clean-looking young man got out and began walking towards her. He wore a ranger uniform, and was apologizing profusely to her with a smile on his face…

After that, her chest became numb, an anesthetic gun! Rangers had anesthetic guns!

Where was she? She could faintly make out a dark rock wall, so did that mean she was in a cave?

She tried her best to open her eyes, but she felt someone pressing down on her chin. Then, a slightly sweet liquid was poured into her mouth.

‘No… Don’t…’ She thought to herself

As she had seen information on the Angel Killer incident, she knew that this was the taste of the Japan-made aphrodisiac…

Her consciousness gradually became scattered as she felt her body heating up. She heard a familiar voice moaning, but it was not until sometime that she realized that this moaning was coming from herself. Next, she felt a pair of strong arms hugging her as an unfamiliar, warm body slowly covered hers. Seconds later, the man ruthlessly entered her.

The whole process was exceedingly long and seemingly endless for Yao Meng. Most of the time, she was unconscious, and when she would occasionally awake, everything was pitch-black around her. This, coupled with the drug’s effects, made sure that she could not see clearly. She seemed to recall talking a lot, but she could not remember a word she said. The only impression she had was of a man turning her body about as if he was not satisfied.

Subsequently, when everything finally stopped, she sensed a man standing in the dark, looking down at her. She mustered all her strength and muttered faintly, “Don’t kill me… I can’t die… Qingyan, save me… Qingyan, please come save me…”