In the ninth conference room of the police headquarters of Hangzhou. The officers who led the task force on the terrorist attack of August 16th sat in a single row, facing the four people across the table.
“How did you arrive to the conclusion that Li Yiming and Qing Qiaoqiao were the culprits?” Grandma Wang’s finger joints paled as she pushed down against the top of the table, suppressing a glaring rage.
“Vice-Commissioner Wang, we have witnesses testifying their presence at the scene of the incident. We also have testimonies for their participation in the kidnapping of Guo Xiang at the Golden Shine Nightclub,” Secretary Ye, head of the police department at Hangzhou, answered her question. ‘What a blunder today. First, the collapse of the viaduc. Then, some murder incident and now, a terrorist attack? I’m going to retire in half a year… Why such a mess now? She’s only a vice-commissioner at State Security, but her authority is beyond mine, and it doesn’t seem like she’s here to help…’
“Testimonies for Li Yiming murdering the victim? Testimonies for him causing the explosion?” Grandma Wang pressed on, but avoided the topic of the kidnapping at the Nightclub, since that one was much harder to explain.
“From what we’ve seen at the scene… We believe that…”
Thud! Grandma smashed the table. Everyone, including Li Yiming, jumped from their seat.
“From what you’ve seen? You believe?” Grandma Wang took a deep breath, and pointed at Secretary Ye with one finger, pretending to outraged. “You exposed two of our best agents, agents that we’ve trained through blood, sweat and tears, to the media, based on groundless speculations? They are now known. Known by the media, known by other countries, known by our enemies. Do you have any idea how much time and effort it took for their training? Do you know how much the country spent on them? This… This is treason!”
“He’s… They’re agents?” Secretary Ye almost slid off his chair. ‘Treason… With that accusation…’
“Hmpf!” Grandma Wang snorted in discontent. Qing Linglong gave her a file folder, and she threw it in front of Secretary Ye. The latter carefully opened it and pulled out a thick pile of documents.
Wait…” Qing Linglong stopped him. She pulled out another sheet of paper out of her bag and said, “Please sign this non-disclosure agreement before proceeding. I’m talking to everyone here.”
Secretary Ye was a little surprised, but nevertheless nodded and signed his name. The other officers followed his lead. He opened the cover, and found an abundance of information inside, whose natural complexity, compounded by the presence of black ink covering most of the key passages, made it so that he could only grasp its rough outlines. The documents delineated a special program in which children aged from 12 to 16 were recruited for espionage and counter-espionage purposes.
A bead of cold sweat rolled down Secretary Ye’s forehead as he read on. ‘If we really put on an A-level wanted notice for these two, although it would make sense, this old hag is probably going to fabricate some kind of treason allegation against me. That’s their job after all, and they’re the kind of people who would use any mean to get the desired results…’
“They received orders to stop the murder.” Qing Linglong noticed Secretary Ye’s hesitation and explained in a dignified manner.
“Then the true culprit is…”
Thud! Grandma Wang smashed the table again. “Did we not send you a memo about Zhang Qiang’s arrival? Were you not sent a notice about Zhang Qiang’s intention to assassinate Guo Tai, the chairman of Yunlong Group?”
Secretary Ye swallowed back his words: he had known about that and sent two teams for follow-up. “What about the kidnapping at the nightclub…?”
“If you want to know the details about that, go through the usual outlets.” Grandma Wang was inflexible. ‘That one is simply unexplainable. Who would have known…’
“Officer Zhang, go downstairs and immediately revoke the arrest orders for our agent comrades.”
The officer at the end of the table stood up, saluted the secretary and left the room.
“Vice-commissioner Wang, the terrorist attack has brought a lot of bad press for Hangzhou. The whole country, and even the whole world is watching us. Since you are already here… Can I ask for your cooperation on the matter?” Grandma Wang’s harsh attitude, which added to the pressure the last few days had brought, made Secretary Ye seek the second available option.
Grandma Wang frowned and did not answer him. Qing Linglong brushed her hair back with her hand and pointed at her ear inconspicuously. “Secretary Ye, the terrorist attack here has also brought a lot of pressure on our department. I’ve received orders to cooperate with the local police. Since our… Misunderstanding has been cleared, I would hope that we can join forces to get to the end of this as quickly as we can, so that we can fulfill the expectations of those watching us, whether they are in Hangzhou, elsewhere in the country or even abroad.
“Yes, through our cooperation, we will let the criminals of this world know that they cannot simply come and do whatever they want in Hangzhou, in our great country.” Secretary Ye stood up and shook hands with Grandma Wang.
“I’ll leave comrade Li Yiming to you, since he is the most knowledgeable person on the matter. More detailed information will come from our headquarters soon. Let’s keep contact.” Grandma Wang communicated her intentions by flashing a glance at Li Yiming as she performed a handshake.
“Oh yes, we’ve also received intelligence that the chairman of Yunlong group, Guo Tai, is looking to hire someone to avenge his son after having received false information from you…” This came from Eyeglasses, who stayed outside to monitor the flow of information, but also to keep an eye on Guo Tai, in case the camouflager would target him again.
“We will take care of this. Officer Zhang, you’ll be responsible for cooperating with agent Li Yiming.”
“Yes.” The captain who had been responsible for extracting the information out of Ji Xiaoqin before saluted Li Yiming.
While Grandma Wang and the Qing sisters split up to search for more clues, Eyeglasses made use of the municipal surveillance network to hunt for information. Li Yiming followed officer Zhang into the control center of the police headquarters. It did not look quite so different from a stocks exchange office; big screens, small computers all over the place, with a moving board on the side filled with paper clips of different sizes and Li Yiming’s photo. One officer was packing the papers away. Both him and his colleagues threw a distracted look at Li Yiming: just a moment before, their work consisted of analyzing and tracking the latter down, but now, by some twist of fate, Li Yiming was standing in front of them and had become one of them.
“Captain Zhang, the information from State Security is here. It’s very detailed. Please have a look.”
A picture of Zhang Qiang appeared on the big screen in the center of the room. The information was provided by Eyeglasses. Li Yiming was very disinterested by it, so he looked around until he found a chair to sit down and compose his thoughts after all the wild things that had occured over the last two days. ‘I was a criminal when I arrived, and now I’m a secret agent…’
No one paid any attention to Li Yiming, since their eyes were glued to the information displayed on the screen. The information had come from Li Yiming’s own department, so it was expected to not be anything novel for him. No one expected any kind of meaningful contribution from him either, given his lack of seniority. He was at most an outlet to contact State Security should the need arise.
Li Yiming, a little bored, searched through the documents on the desk right beside him. He picked up a set of pictures, which seemed to have been taken back inside the hotel room. The professionalism of the photographer was evident in the completeness of angles and the meticulousness of details. Li Yiming looked at Guo Xiang’s wide open eyes and suddenly felt unsettled. ‘If I didn’t kidnap him, would he have been spared?’
Li Yiming sighed and looked at the photo once again. The gaping eyes and the dagger drilled into Guo Xiang’s skull. ‘That dagger…’ Li Yiming was onto something.
‘The camouflager has his own special technique, so why would he use a dagger to kill people? He used his lightning to attack me. Same for Grandma Wang… Unless the spells are only usable against guardians? But I’m not a guardian, strictly speaking, so that doesn’t make any sense…
“Where’s that dagger?” Li Yiming asked the officer right next to him.
“In the evidence room.”
“Can I have a look?”
“Well…” The officer hesitated and turned his head towards officer Zhang. The latter, after a brief moment of contemplation, nodded: they wished to show their good will to their colleagues and honor their promise of unreserved cooperation.
“Please wait a moment.” The evidence room was not far away, so it would be better to bring the item out of storage rather than to lead a complete stranger into it. The officer strode away and came back a few minutes later with a sealed bag decorated by a piece of label full of numbers on its corner and the dagger inside of it.
Li Yiming examined the weapon. ‘Rustic, fine, no motifs or any decoration. Rather ordinary…’
“Haven’t found anything about its origins. No fingerprints either,” Captain Zhang added a short explanation before continuing to read Zhang Qiang’s file.
“Wait, I’ve seen this dagger before,” a female officer suddenly remarked.
“You’ve seen it?” Both Li Yiming and captain Zhang turned their head toward her.
“Let me have a look.” The officer came closer and scrutinized the item. “Yes, I’ve seen this before. The same kind of weapon was used to kill Wang Jianjun.”
“What?” The two were utterly shocked.
The female officer did not belong to their team. She was transferred from the team which worked on the murder of Wang Jianjun as a result of the lack of manpower following the terrorist attack.
“Are you sure?” asked Li Yiming.
“We’d know for sure with a simple analysis. Put the information about Wang Jianjun’s case on the main screen,” said captain Zhang, who saw a chance for a breakthrough in the link between the two cases. One was a murder case whereas the other was a terrorist attack. Although the two occured in rapid succession, relating the two was not obvious, especially given the fact that the investigations were conducted by two different teams.
A set of pictures quickly appeared on the main screen. Li Yiming suppressed his repulsion as he looked at the foreheads of the two burnt corpses. ‘Daggers… The daggers…;’
“Zoom in and compare the two pictures,” said captain Zhang, whose excitement was audible.
“Similarity of 99%, the daggers are the same,” answered an officer quickly.
“Quick, call the secretary.”
“Allow me to relay the findings to my superior,” Li Yiming walked to a corner and took out his cellphone, pretending to use it.
Li Yiming quickly explained the new findings.
“Wait a second.” Eyeglasses was a little surprised.
“I’ve taken a look at Wang Jianjun’s information before. Nothing special, he’s greedy and lustful, but rather low-profile. That’s pretty normal, I’d say. In fact, aren’t most men like that…?” 1 Eyeglasses searched through his data and interpreted it as he read on.
‘Low-profile? This has nothing to do with Guo Xiang… The only common trait… Lustfulness?’ Li Yiming flashed another glance at the two corpses displayed on the screen. ‘Two victims… The mistress..’
“Can you look up his mistress?”
“Mistress? Su Ming… Hold on, there’s nothing special about her either. Full-time sugar baby, no kids.”
“What about his wife?”
“His wife? Give me a second… His wife is as normal as she can be. She’s currently living in her maternal home with the two kids. Hmm… Last year, Wang Jianjun tried to divorce her, so she tried to commit suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills, but she was rescued. After that, Wang Jianjun never pressed her again and they’ve each lived on their own.”
Twist twist twist of the plot.
1. Rofl xD
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