Ling Shu was deeply immersed in his thoughts as he munched on a chestnut, completely unaware of when Cheng Si had left.
His energy was far from what it used to be, and he had just been injured. His mind blurred and the half-eaten chestnut dropped to the floor, rolling across the room.
In a daze, someone bent over and picked it up, setting it on the cabinet next to the sickbed.
"You're always so scatterbrained," the voice said softly.
It was not Cheng Si's urgent shouts, but the gentle and sweet voice from his memory, like a bowl of ice-cold sugarcane juice that was sweet enough without honey, soothing his heart.
Ling Shu rubbed his eyes, and indeed, he saw someone standing at the window, drawing the curtains.
"It's very windy outside, you can't just sleep with the windows open, else you won't be feeling well later."
"Du... Yun Ning?" Ling Shu asked hesitantly.
The woman in the qipao hummed in response.
Ling Shu wanted to ask if she wasn't dead, but he couldn't bring himself to say it.
Du Yunning had a peaceful aura about her, unlike her fiery personality when she was first married into the Yuan family, or her resentful demeanor when she became the mistress. Instead, she was like the carefree days when she was studying, when everyone had lots of enthusiasm to pour into their youthful passions.
"I'm not dead, I'm still alive," Du Yunning said before he could, "Did you all think I was dead?"
Ling Shu propped himself up, his head aching, his vision blurring occasionally. The sky was darkening, and with the curtains drawn, he could barely make out her expression.
"You're not dead? Where were you? We've been looking for you all this time. Everyone in Shanghai thought you were dead, and your husband Yuan Bing was imprisoned!"
"I know," Du Yunning said cheerfully.
"This is the result I wanted. I hate him. If he hadn't locked me up here and watched me deteriorate, then I wouldn't have become addicted to smoking. Do you know, he has illegitimate children outside. I'm like a fool, knowing nothing. Why can he have three wives and four concubines, and I have to bear the name of Mrs. Yuan and remain virtuous for the rest of my life?"
Ling Shu: "So you really are involved with Hong Xiaoguang. Who is he exactly?"
Du Yunning: "He? He's you!"
Ling Shu: "What nonsense..."
Just as he was about to get up to grab Du Yunning and stop her from running away, she spoke and suddenly turned around. Her face was pale, her lips stained with blood, her eyes almost falling out of their sockets, a shocking sight.
Ling Shu was drenched in cold sweat, his body trembling violently as he jumped up.
"You woke up?"
Du Yunning was gone.
Sitting in her direction was a man, his head bowed over some documents.
It was Yue Dingtang.
"I just had a dream," he said.
He breathed heavily, his chest and back were wet as if he had just been pulled out of the water.
His slender neck was stiff and straight, as if it could break at any moment.
Yue Dingtang looked up, took off his glasses, and turned on the light as he stood up.
The room was brightly lit.
Ling Shu inexplicably breathed a sigh of relief.
But Yue Dingtang's next words made him hold his breath again.
"Bad news, Yuan Bing has died."
Just as he feared.
Ling Shu was stunned for a moment, his head buzzing, feeling disoriented.
"How did he die?"
His lips were pale and dry, his voice filled with difficulty.
"He had a smoking attack, the illness had set in too deeply, nothing could be done."
Yue Dingtang raised his head, took off his glasses, and stood up to turn on the lights.
The room was now brightly lit.
Ling Shu was suddenly relieved, yet Yue Dingtang's next words made him pause again.
"Someone visited him before he died."
Ling Shu: "Who?"
Yue Dingtang: "Yuan Lingbo, Yuan Bingdao's second younger sister."
Ling Shu: "This person should have settled in Hong Kong early, how can she suddenly come back?"
Yue Dingtang nodded: "Yuan Bing has a separate prison cell, he and the patrolmen are also on good terms, the person who came to visit the prison claimed to be his second aunt, and they agreed to let her visit without further questions."
Ling Shu couldn't help but say: "The jurisdiction of the concession’s prison can be so relaxed?"
Yue Dingtang snorted: "That should be so, else how can people drink, play cards, and eat night snacks in it?"
Ling Shu wore a look of: what are you saying, I can't understand it at all.
His hair, damp with sweat, stuck to his forehead. He was pale and did not have his usual relaxed manner.
Yue Dingtang glanced at him and swallowed the words of irony that had reached his lips.
"In theory, if Yuan Lingbo is fake, Yuan Bing would immediately find out, but according to the patrolmen's testimony, this woman went in and stayed in for about an hour without much noise. After the other left, he went in and saw that Yuan Bing was sitting there obediently without any noise. Until half an hour later, there was a sound in it, Yuan Bing said that he was uncomfortable and the situation was getting worse. The patrolman quickly called for a doctor, but it was too late."
Ling Shu: "Food poisoning? Have you confirmed that the corpse is him?"
Yue Dingtang: "The corpse is indeed him, without a doubt. His death was preliminarily judged to be excessive smoking, that is to say, his second aunt went to visit the prison and brought them for him. The patrolman of the prison accepted bribes, so he initially concealed this from us, and now he has been dismissed for questioning."
Money can make the devil push the mill, this sentence is commonly used in the current Shanghai, and was not exaggerated at all.
Although Yuan Bing was temporarily detained due to suspicion, after all, the Yuan family still had some family background, enough to buy through the patrolhouse, so that he could live comfortably in it, and because of his identity, everyone would not dare to mess around, and Yuan Lingbo's sudden appearance would not be overly questioned. It was so easy to be put in and contact Yuan Bing closely.
No one knows what they talked about in that hour, and whether the woman is really Yuan Bing's second aunt, all of which will be completely a mystery with Yuan Bing's death.
Unless something unexpected happens, even if they overturn the whole of Shanghai, they will not find a woman named Yuan Lingbo.
"What about Ah Lan, what is the autopsy result?" Ling Shu turned to ask the female servant.
"You may not believe it." Yue Dingtang said, "The preliminary report now shows that Ah Lan was indeed hanged to death."
Ling Shu: "This can’t completely exclude the possibility of murder. If someone first made her faint, then moves her onto the hanging rope, she can also be suffocated to death and no abnormality can be found."
Yue Dingtang shook his head.
"No matter what, it doesn't matter now."
Before, they were wondering why the other party didn't target Yuan Bing directly if they were coming for the Yuan family, but instead went through Du Yunning. It wasn't long after they said this that Yuan Bing indeed met with an accident.
Once news of Yuan Bing's death spread, it would undoubtedly cause another sensation and add more mysterious colors to this unsolved case.
Many novelists may be inspired by this and come up with even more bizarre plots, and the serialized trilogy of the Yuan family in newspapers and magazines could also earn a lot of money as a result.
However, all of this has little to do with the case itself, and may even make the truth of the case even further away from being grasped.
If the focus is pulled back from the death of the three people, and drawn directly to the results?
After becoming a policeman, Ling Shu has dealt with many cases, from trivial matters to major cases, and many things happen in Shanghai every day, and more cases cannot be solved. Many files have been accumulated in the archives room. When Ling Shu has nothing to do, he will go to the archives room to slowly look at it, and no one will rush him to finish it. It has become a pastime and pleasure for him.
From these cases, Ling Shu slowly realized some things.
When it seems like you're being led by a string, don't pay attention to it. Instead, try to go around the one leading you and go ahead. Perhaps a different scene will be found.
"Does Yuan Bing have any illegitimate children?"
"No," Yue Dingtang said confidently. "Although Yuan Bing was a womanizer, his long-term smoking should have affected his fertility."
Ling Shu: "Yuan Bing had three aunts. If both Yuan Bing and Du Yunning are dead, then logically, the Yuan family inheritance should be passed down to the three aunts. But the three aunts are dead and have no children. The eldest aunt is in the United States and may not even have heard about the incident at the Yuan family yet. The only one who came to visit Yuan Bing before he died was his second aunt, Yuan Lingbo."
Yue Dingtang: "That's right. But as soon as she appears, she will inevitably be suspected of killing her nephew and scheming for the property. If this Yuan Lingbo is real, she will not be able to appear."
Ling Shu: "If no one inherits the Yuan family property, the government will take it and put the house up for auction again."
Yue Dingtang furrowed his eyebrows.
He made a gesture, indicating to Ling Shu not to talk anymore.
But he himself had not spoken for a long time, obviously sorting out his thoughts.
Ling Shu thought of the maid Ah Lan and also of the Yuan family house.
This woman must be the key link.
She may have been an informant or a participant, so she had to die.
The murderer killed her to cover up some things and thought that when one dies, the matter would be settled. But from another perspective, the more people who die, the more flaws there will be.
"I'll go check Ah Lan's background first."
"I want to go to the Yuan family and have a look."
The two spoke almost at the same time.
Yue Dingtang: "The death of Yuan Bing and Ah Lan is unfortunate news, but it also has one advantage, which is to indirectly help you clear your suspicion. You don't have to be so anxious now."
Ling Shu: "I can only completely get rid of suspicion when the case is solved soon. Otherwise, the murderer will get away with it and I'll be suspended from the police station for sure. My career goal is to be a policeman, and I don't want to lose this job."
He added in his heart, this job of eating and waiting to die and being idle.
Yue Dingtang had a look that said he understood but did not say anything.
"The doctor asked you to rest more. You should not walk around now."
"I feel much better," Ling Shu touched his head, "I just dreamed of Du Yunning."
Yue Dingtang was silent.
This name was already a past memory for them, but the memory was still there and would never be erased.
How pitiful Du Yunning was now, how pure and good her past was.
It was a past shared by the two of them.
Although they did not say it, everyone wanted to comfort her spirit in heaven with the truth.
"After the doctor checks your condition tomorrow and makes sure you can be discharged, we will go to the Yuan family and have a thorough look." Yue Dingtang said.
Ling Shu yawned: "I feel like we missed an important detail last time."
Yue Dingtang saw his tired and pale face and tidied up the files in his hand.
"Rest well. I will come tomorrow."
"No need to see me off. Don't turn off the light." Ling Shu slipped into the bed and pulled the quilt up over his ears.
"Are you afraid of the dark or ghosts?" Yue Dingtang teased.
The person did not say anything, as if he had fallen asleep.
Yue Dingtang smiled and walked to the door, ready to open it. As if remembering something, he turned back.
"Right, I forgot to ask you. You said you were learning to write with your left hand for fun, why did you switch to your right hand when shooting? Is that also for fun?"
Ling Shu did not move.
After a long while, just as Yue Dingtang was about to leave, he heard the other's sleepy voice.
"I'm a policeman. I have to be able to use both hands in a critical moment to save my life. You wouldn't understand even if I told you."
Author's note: What should we have for midnight snacks?
Little theatre unrelated to the main text:
Yue Dingtang: Let me tell you a ghost story.
After listening, Ling Shu's face did not change and he remained calm.
Yue Dingtang thought, he's not afraid at all, did I guess wrong?
Taking advantage of the moment when he was got up to smoke, Ling Shu took out the cloth that was stuffed into his ears and threw it into the basket.