Volume 1: Case 502 – The Intoxicated Frozen Corpse
“And here I was wondering why are you so eager today. It turns out Yang Mei isn’t here.” laughed Yan Xie.
“The number you have called is busy now. Please try again later…”
The street was filled with an endless stream of traffic. Yang Mei’s fine brows were knitted together while she attempted to make another call standing beside the car door.
After a long stretch of time passed, the call was suddenly picked up right before the line was about to give a busy tone. “Hello.”
“Brother Jiang, are you done yet? I just finished work. I’m going to head to the hospital to pick you up now—”
“I’m being followed.”
“WHAT?!” Stunned by the news, Yang Mei hurriedly whispered, “Who is it? Are they from Gongzhou or… ?”
Seeing that Jiang Ting did not promptly reply, an icy chill suddenly spread from the depths of Yang Mei’s heart.
If the men were sent from Gongzhou, the worst they could do was take his life.
But if it came from the other party, then that could lead to a most terrifying scenario, one beyond imagining.
“It’s difficult to say for now.” Jiang Ting’s voice finally came again. Yang Mei had a faint sense that he was rushing ahead with large strides. “This guy came to the hospital to ask about me and left a trace behind. The way he handled matters is quite clumsy, so it doesn’t seem like he was sent from that side.”
“So what do we now?! I’m heading there right now to pick you up!”
The ensuing sound of Jiang Ting’s calm voice forced down her anxiety. “Regardless of who wants to kill me, they still have no idea that you exist, so don’t come and find me. Head back to the bar and find a few others to help out first. I’ll lure him out of the hospital and give you a call later.”
“Hello?! Brother Jiang!…”
A busy tone came through from the phone, indicating that Jiang Ting had hung up on her.
Stuffing the phone back into his pants pocket, Jiang Ting stared ahead of him and caught sight of a man’s figure abruptly emerging from around a corner behind him being reflected on the glass door at the end of the corridor.
—unexpectedly, he was closing in on him.
Was the man an overt amateur, or was he planning to make a move?
He was already at the end of the corridor with nowhere else to go. Jiang Ting snuck a glimpse behind before immediately charging down the stairs. The steps he took were so graceful and smooth that when he turned, the rising wind swept the nurse’s hair. Regardless, he didn’t stop and made straight for the lower levels.
He arrived on the fourth floor.
This was the last floor of the inpatient department. If he headed down any further, he would only find the fire escape and elevators.
Face devoid of all emotion, the moment Jiang Ting’s foot touched the ground, his eyes scanned his surrounding and darted across every corner of the place. The wards, elevator, staff station, safety door, were all etched into his mind in less than half a second. Not far from him, several nurses were currently pushing their respective elderly charges along as they slowly wobbled forward. He gauged that they were roughly twenty metres away from him.
He could hear a thumping above his head. The stalker’s steps were audibly slowing down, as if he was attempting to take stock of the situation.
Just then, the door of the elevator slid open with a ‘Ding!’.
A nurse pushed a cart out from the elevator, heading in the direction of another passageway that was linked to the end of the corridor, intending to distribute the meals prepared for each ward.
From another person’s perspective, after rushing down from the stairs, Jiang Ting hadn’t even stopped moving for even a second. He followed along as though it was his intended plan all along. The brawny man separated himself from the crowd and was hot on his tail as he made his way towards the end of the corridor.
The private nursing home was quite particular with its interior design. Every corner of the connecting hallways were decorated with large potted plants. As he turned a corner passing the verdant and luscious greens, the lunch cart was sure enough, parked at the entrance to the first ward. Steaming bowls filled with pork rib soup were neatly arranged on the cart. The nurse had already entered the ward, revealing a small crack in the door.
Jiang Ting casually picked up a bowl of soup in passing from the lunch cart. Without looking, he emptied the soup with a splash behind him before returning the emptied bowl to the cart. His entire set of movement appearing completely natural; before hurrying off ahead.
Seconds later, a ‘CRASH!’ rang out!
As soon as the man with the baseball cap turned the corner, he abruptly slipped without warning, completely sprawling out on his back as he slid across the soup covering the entire floor. This was immediately followed by a collision, as he crashed straight into the lunch cart and knocked it over, blanketing the floor with a blaze of colors.
“AH! What happened? What happened?!”
“Quickly, someone! Please hurry up and help him back up!”
A ruckus soon engulfed the entire hallway. The man with the baseball cap grimaced as he instantly became the center of attention on the entire floor. A couple of nurses heard the commotion, and immediately rushed over without supporting their little hats as they frantically helped him up on his feet and asked him if he was burnt at the same time.
“I’m okay. Let go of me. I…”
The man with the baseball cap struggled to break free while attempting to get a good vantage. He was met with the sight of Jiang Ting’s figure flickering for an instant around a corner before quickly disappearing into nothingness behind a crowd.
The man with the baseball cap cursed violently before frantically trying to throw off his helpers. Expressing a couple of curt niceties to get rid of the nurses, he dashed forward at a run and fished out his phone. Speaking in a deep voice, he said, “Hey. I’ve got a situation here. Our plan was exposed!”
After a moment of silence, a woman’s voice came through the receiver.
“You were discovered?”
“I’m certain of it!”
As the man rushed through the long hallway, he realized he had lost all trace of the target’s figure. Just then, a nearby elevator let out another ‘Ding!’. Turning his head around, he caught sight of Jiang Ting’s figure slipping into it.
From the receiver, the woman icily ordered, “Get rid of him. I’ll send someone to pick you up.”
Without hesitation, the man spun around and dashed for it!
After pressing the close button, Jiang Ting swiftly pressed the button to the top floor, staring expressionlessly at the baseball cap man in the distance. The elevator door slowly slid shut just as he was about to reach him.
—Yet immediately after, the elevator began to descend to the lower levels!
A light hiss escaped Jiang Ting’s lips.
When using elevators to escape, it was better to head to the upper levels instead of the lower levels. This was because little time was needed to madly dash down a flight of stairs within a range of three floors. In addition, the double doors of the large elevators in the hospital moved rather slowly.
At this rate, even if he managed to successfully reach the lounge on the first floor, his arrival wouldn’t differ from the other man by more than three to four seconds.
The elevator door slid open once more. Before several people waiting outside could get in, Jiang Ting had already rushed out first and quickly made for the entrance.
However, just as he predicted, a few seconds after he stepped out, the door to the fire escape in the corner was flung open. The man with the baseball cap immediately charged out, taking only a few seconds to lock-on to Jiang Ting’s position in the crowd. Stuffing his hand into his pocket, he charged straight at him!
Quickening his pace, Jiang TIng whipped out his phone and pulled up the screen showing his recent contacts, forcefully squeezing his way through a line of people queueing to make their payments.
A couple of aunties in the queue cried out in anger. “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?! Stop pushing!”
Jiang Ting didn’t respond at all, maintaining his pace. His call to Yang Mei was still going through.
“EI! Another one cutting in line!” The aunties behind him once again squawked aloud. “Why are you shoving people at such a young age?!”
“Are you rushing to get reincarnated?! Where are your manners?”
Turning his head back to catch a quick glimpse, Jiang Ting saw that the man had also shoved his way through the line of paying crowd!
The call interface finally showed that the other party had accepted the call. Yang Mei began to anxiously ask, “Hello? Brother Jiang?”
“Are you…” muttered Jiang Ting while turning to look. All of a sudden, he collided straight into a person with a ‘Bang!’.
Jiang Ting staggered backwards half a step, lifting a hand to cover his mouth and nose. Before he could recover from the miserable pain, a man’s familiar voice tinged with a hint of laughter, spoke up in mild surprise.
“Hmm? Look who we have here! If it isn’t Mr. Lu?”
Jiang Ting lifted his eyes to look. Yan Xie was standing there with his arms crossed as he stared back at him with a grin.
“Brother Jiang? Hello?” Yang Mei’s panic-stricken voice came from the receiver. “Brother Jiang??”
Five metres away, the man with the cap had his right hand stuffed in his pocket; tall and brawny, his supple muscles visibly taut underneath his shirt. Half of his body was concealed behind the crowd, glaring straight at them relentlessly from under the lowered brim of his cap, resembling a hyena completely fixated on a rotten corpse.
Yang Mei’s shrill voice was almost trembling, “Brother Jiang! Answer me! Are you okay?!”
“—Oh? You’re on the phone?” The corner of Yan Xie’s lips faintly curled upwards as he continued on, “Fine then. Go be busy. I’ll see you later.”
As he spoke, he lift his leg to brush past him, heading in the direction of the elevator.
In a split second, Jiang Ting made his decision.
“I’m fine. I bumped into Vice-captain Yan in the hospital. I’ll call you later.” Jiang Ting ended the call, before turning around to reach with his hand. In that moment of desperation, he immediately latched himself onto Yan Xie’s arm. “Vice-Captain Yan…”
Yan Xie tilted his head to look.
Wondering whether he had been intentionally fed a false image, Jiang Ting felt that this man, who always put on a devil-may-care attitude, appeared more like the young master of a wealthy police family than the Vice-Captain of a detachment. Yet when Yan Xie’s gaze firmly locked on to him now, his eyes seemed to flicker with an indescribably bright radiance that would make anyone’s heart tremble with terror.
“What’s up?” Yan Xie asked.
Jiang Ting let out a breath of air as though all his emotions were being gently spat out. Then, he broke into a smile. “Why is Vice-Captain Yan here?”
“My relative is hospitalized here. Since I had nothing going on today, I dropped by to visit. What about you?” asked Yan Xie.
Jiang Ting laughed, “I’ve been discharged for several days now. Just coming back to do my check-ups.”
“Oh? There shouldn’t have been any problems then?”
“Everything is fine and dandy.”
As their conservation reached this point, Jiang Ting paused for a moment. Before he had time to say anything else, Yan Xie raised his hand and deliberately glanced at his watch. “It’s good that you’re doing fine. I won’t keep you here any longer to avoid disturbing you and your girlfriend’s little date. Who knows if the two of you will be resentful to our local police force later. Well, I’m heading off first.”
Yan Xie made a motion to retract his hand. Just as he expected, the moment he moved, Jiang Ting turned his entire body around towards him. “Vice-Captain Yan…”
Being a hundred and eighty-seven centimeters tall, his entire being towered over Jiang Ting among the crowd. His arms were crossed in front of his chest, exuding an aura that kept people at arm’s length.
Little wonder he managed to become a senior criminal investigator after just working for a decade. When he eyed someone so intently, the intense and threatening aura he released was more than enough to lock his target down with nowhere to hide.
Jiang Ting kept his face turned upwards, at a slight angle to the side. The angle kept his eyes looking up, and made him appear a little vulnerable before Yan Xie. After a moment of hesitation, he chose to remain sincere and said, “Yang Mei’s bar is back in business, which I’m sure is all thanks to Vice-Captain Yan. I haven’t have the chance to thank you yet. Now that we’ve run into each other, why don’t I treat you? Otherwise, I’d feel rather uneasy if I didn’t.”
Yan Xie gave him a hard stare then, slipping in a slightly playful tone, said, “I’m just doing my job so you don’t have to treat me. Isn’t that girlfriend of yours waiting for you outside? Don’t make her wait long, she might start worrying.” As he said so, without waiting for Jiang Ting to respond, he proceeded to extricate himself to leave.
“—Hey,” Jiang Ting hurried to stop him. “Yang Mei’s not here today.”
The way Jiang Ting responded to Yan Xie was forced out of him, since Yan Xie was adamantly driving him away. But as soon as the words came out, Jiang Ting was stunned. Even he himself felt it sounded a little odd.
—shifting his head a little to look at Yan Xie once more. The tip of Jiang Ting’s brow at the corner of his eyes was looking very beautiful-shaped. His posture now, appeared more like he was earnestly pleading with him, especially with the gap between the two of them being abnormally small. One of Jiang Ting’s hand was even wrapped around Yan Xie’s muscular arm.
If Jiang Ting were a woman, this scene would actually be incredibly suggestive, to the point that it would be enough to make a person’s heart stir and palpitate against their chest.
Nearby, the man with the cap sized Yan Xie from head to toe cautiously, not daring to make a careless move without thinking now.
“Oh.” The jest in Yan Xie’s voice was even more evident. He was clearly doing it on purpose. “And here I was wondering why are you so eager today. It turns out Yang Mei isn’t here.”
Jiang Ting returned a speechless look.
“Fine then.” Seizing the chance before Jiang Ting could pick up a stranger meaning from his words, he flipped his hand over and pulled him to his side, before saying with a grin plastered on his face. “Then there’s no time like the present. Let’s make it today.”
It was noon time, and the number of people on the streets were growing by the number. The dazzling, bright golden sunshine of early May was scattering its rays onto the tar roads, making anyone who braved the scorching heat break out in sweat just after walking a few steps. Yan Xie rolled up the sleeves of his shirt over his upper arm, then looked at Jiang Ting with a shadow of a smile. “Don’t you feel hot wearing so much?”
Jiang Ting’s phone was vibrating soundlessly in his pants’ pocket. He cancelled the call and weakly replied. “For someone who’s almost half-crippled like me, how can I have as much heat in my body as you do?”
Yan Xie’s gaze darted around Jiang Ting’s cuffs which were tightly buttoned down to his wrists. And said with a smile, “Are you listening to yourself? Your condition isn’t as serious as being half-crippled. Mr. Lu looks younger than me after all.”
Jiang Ting shirked from answering for lack of better option. “Please don’t tease me.”
Yan Xie continued, “This isn’t teasing at all. I’m being quite serious. Since the first time I met Mr. Lu, I’ve been wanting to have a meal with you.”
Jiang Ting was at a loss for words.
“Today I finally got what I wished for! It really wasn’t easy—!”
Yan Xie’s relief didn’t sound freigned at all, causing a little apprehension to appear on Jiang Ting’s face.
‘Was this man not right in the head?’
“Are you thinking that I’ve either gone crazy handling the case, or I’m not right in the head?” asked Yan Xie.
Jiang Ting proceeded to answer, “How could I think of Vice-captain Yan that way?”
Yan Xie suddenly rapidly came to a stop before spinning around quickly. Out of the corner of his eyes, as his gaze swept past behind him—over ten meters away—a black baseball cap rapidly blended himself into the bustling crowd.
However, Yan Xie acted as though he hadn’t seen a thing. He grabbed onto Jiang Ting’s wrist with one hand and laughed, “Do you believe in ‘Deja Vu’ in this world, Mr. Lu?”
His fingers could suddenly clearly feel the uneven skin under Jiang Ting’s sleeve; the old wounds left behind by the bites on his wrist.
Jiang Ting exerted a little more force trying to pull his hand from Yan Xie’s grip. However, Yan Xie was tightly clutching onto him with no intention of letting go. Without batting an eyelid, Jiang Ting asked in reply. “Oh?”
“Meeting you for the first time was like seeing an old friend I’ve really wanted to meet, yet we would be fated not to meet from beginning to end. But you’ve always been with Yang Mei, so I can’t be sure whether it was because you dislike us local policemen or you just simply can’t stand me. Thus, being able to share a table with you on equal footing, really is something I would have never imagined in the past.” Yan Xie gave a deep laugh and added, “So to speak, it’s seriously impossible to predict the workings of fate in the world. Haha—”
Yan Xie’s facial features were more stern-looking, so when he stared at Jiang Ting and laughed, the bottom of his eyes were pooled with a man’s thick and ice-cold menacing aura.
“…” Jiang Ting slowly pulled out his hand from Yan Xie’s grip. It looked like he wanted to say something. Yet, he didn’t. Instead, he simply flashed a smile and curtly responded with, “Really?”
His expression was normal, but Yan Xie was sure that all the self-restrained cultivated over Jiang Ting’s lifetime was being condensed into this short response.
“Isn’t it?” Yan Xie continued on. Just as he was about to continue stubbornly pursuing the topic, his phone chose to ring right at that moment.
“It’s from the detachment.” Yan Xie said apologetically. “Sorry, I have to answer this call. You wait here for a while.”
Currently they were standing at the entrance of a shopping centre with a very large flow of human traffic. Yan Xie intentionally walked two steps further ahead to pick up his call. He heard Ma Xiang’s voice brimming with exhaustion, come through, “Hello Brother Yan, it’s not working. That son of a bitch Hu, won’t admit to it no matter what. We’re all at our wit’s end. Where are you?”
Looking down from a stairway, Yan Xie watched as Jiang Ting stood on the sidewalk holding onto his phone, keeping him in his sights.
“Yanhang Shopping Centre downtown.” Yan Xie shot a grin at Jiang Ting even as he spoke into his phone. “I’m looking into an old case from a few years back. Nothing urgent going on, so wait for me to call you back later.”
Ma Xiang’s drowsiness was instantly swept away. “Oh god, my Brother Yan! Why are you tackling this alone? Do you need back-up?”
“Nope. Don’t tell anyone why I’m out now. Not even Deputy Wei and Old Qin.”
“Are you going to be alright alone?”
At that exact moment, Jiang Ting’s phone vibrated for a while. He lowered his head to look.
Yan Xie cast a gaze at a distant point. The man with the baseball cap was hiding himself behind a trash bin, pretending to have a leisure smoke.
The mantis catches the cicada, unaware of the yellow bird stalking behind.
Yan Xie laughed wordlessly as he shifted towards the rear without attracting any attention. “There’s no problem. He’s already trapped.”
Jiang Ting swiped to unlock his phone screen and tapped on voice message, his voice sounding quite deep with the noisy street in the background. “I’m heading towards Jinyansha Hotel with Yan Xie. The backdoor of the hotel leads to a back alley called Sanmao Street. Send someone to drive there and set up an ambush. The target is roughly 185m tall, extremely burly, dressed in a white short-sleeved T-shirt and a black baseball cap. Don’t be nervous. It’s just like how you cooperate with the police before to set up the ambush to arrest the other guy. I’ll lure the guy over soon. Bring him to the KTV after knocking him out and wait for me to deal with him once I get back later.”
Yang Mei had brought over a male employee from the KTV. After listening to the message, there was nothing for her to question, so she simply typed out ‘Understood’ and sent it., then shared her current location.
Taking a quick glance at it, Jiang Ting slipped his phone back into his pocket. As soon as he raised his head to look, his whole body froze.
Yan Xie had disappeared.
In just a mere two seconds, Yan Xie’s figure had completely vanished without a trace.
Jiang Ting’s first reaction was to search around himself, feeling his heart sink a little. In an instant, all kinds of possibilities flooded his mind—where had Yan Xie gone to?
Did he realize something wasn’t right?
Was his sudden appearance in the nursing home a coincidence, or had it actually been planned all along?
Jiang Ting ran towards the stairs of the shopping centre at a fast pace, while trying to call Yan Xie’s phone. It rang twice before his call was rejected.
Jiang Ting was speechless.
He made another call again. Just like before, it rang twice before getting cut off.
His stalker seemed to have also noticed something was amiss, and was now slowly approaching him.
Jiang Ting had seen all kinds of cases, so his perception of safety was different from ordinary people. He knew that a secure, monitored place like a hospital was still alright in terms of safety, but if he was on a road in broad daylight, it was far from being safe at all; even though he was in a public place surrounded by people.
Just yelling out ‘Catch that thief!’, ‘Beat up that mistress!’, or having a well-organized plan to create an effective diversion, had a high possibility of kidnapping a person within a few minutes without raising a commotion or attracting too much attention. Even if there were witnesses on the scene, it would be difficult for the police to organize a chaotic and piecemeal description into an effective testimony to present in court.
The man wearing the baseball cap looked around hesitantly. Upon seeing that Yan Xie was nowhere to be seen, he finally made up his mind.
“Yang Mei, something isn’t right.” Still on the phone, Jiang Ting hurriedly walked towards the hotel. “Immediately go to the place where you were supposed to wait for the target and get two people to extract me. I’m now passing through the entrance of the Yanhang shopping centre…”
Mirroring her current state, Yang Mei’s voice sounded as though a bowstring had been stretched taut to its limit. “Understood! I’m sending someone over to cover you! Share your location with me now!”
“It’s too late for that.” Glancing back around, Jiang Ting could see that the man was shoving his way through the crowd. He was almost five to six meters away. “He’s gaining on me!”
As if a soundless warning had pierced through the air, right at that exact moment, Jiang Ting and the baseball cap man abruptly broke into a mad run together!
“HEY! WATCH IT!”
“Are you fucking blind? You in a rush to reincarnate?!”
The sounds of car horns rose and fell in succession. Without a moment of rest, Jiang Ting seemed to fly across the road, almost being brushed by several cars on the way, and dived straight into the mouth of the alleyway.
Thanks to Jianning City’s relatively slow construction development, these few narrow and winding alleys had yet to be tore down to the point of being unrecognizable to Jiang Ting. Like a gust of wind, he swept past a length of fencing behind the rear entrance of the school. His knees were protesting heavily, but the pressing footsteps behind him were getting closer and closer, and gradually becoming clearer and more audible as the day passed.
“I’m here!” The wind made Yang Mei’s yell break intermittently from the receiver. “Hurry!”
The man’s intention was clear as day as he tightly pursued Jiang Ting from seven to eight meters away. Catching a glance of him as he looked back, Jiang Ting was seriously afraid of being caught. Half of the wall before his eyes was already collapsed, so he sped up and with one hand, vaulted over it perfectly, landing smoothly onto the ground.
Just as he stood up, before he could continue to bolting along, someone suddenly wrapped a hand over his nose and mouth from behind!
The man was obviously well-trained with an extremely strong grip. One hand alone was enough to force Jiang Ting’s voice back into his throat. Almost instantly, his entire arm bound Jiang Ting and forcefully dragging him into the thicket, spinning around to press them against the edge of the wall. Soon after, he swiftly grabbed and directly broke off the call actively showing on Jiang Ting’s phone.
“You’ve never sought help from the right person before, have you?” Leaning over Jiang Ting’s ear, he whispered. “This side of you is very annoying.”