The train continued on its journey.
News of the murder spread quickly, causing panic like a plague.
Passengers discussed in whispers, as if the killer was sitting right next to them.
Some passengers in first class even shouted, demanding the train to stop immediately and let them off.
But it was just talk.
Even if the train stopped now, there was no station nearby, and they would be stranded.
The train attendant was helpless and could only try to appease the first-class passengers. Anyone who stood up and complained would be too much for them to handle.
"Find someone? How do we do that? The first-class passengers are causing a commotion, and they probably won't cooperate!" The train attendant who was helping Ling Shu and his team was at a loss and had placed all his hopes on the two in front of him.
"What should I call you, little brother?"
"You can call me Ah Cai, sir!"
Ling Shu's friendly demeanor made Ah Cai feel honored and he quickly responded.
"Okay, Brother Ah Cai, please take us to the second carriage and make sure to close the doors leading to the first and third carriages. Don't let anyone pass through."
Ah Cai was confused, "Why not check the third carriage? There are more people and the culprit may be hiding there."
As they walked, Ling Shu explained his reasoning. "After preliminary deduction, it is believed that not only the murderer was involved in the killing, but also an accomplice. The victim was a passenger in the second carriage and was traveling alone. Because the second carriage is close to the restroom in the first carriage and has loopholes to exploit, if the victim was in the third carriage, it would have been difficult for the murderer to move the body and commit the crime. The murderer may have hidden in the third carriage, but the accomplice must be a familiar worker on the train, and should have been working in the second carriage for a long time. It is still possible to block the passage between the two carriages now. The murderer must have chosen a familiar place to hide, rather than rashly going to an unfamiliar third carriage."
Ah Cai seemed to understand but also felt confused, thinking that the other person made some sense, but he himself had not yet fully understood the situation.
"Up ahead is the second carriage. You two go find the person, I'll go guard the passage!"
The second carriage was also noisy, but overall much better than the third carriage.
Businessmen, those who value their daily lives, or wealthy literati often choose the second carriage, which is better than those below but not quite as good as those above.
It was mealtime and the various smells of food mixed together and hit them in the face. Even the most delicious food would pale in comparison.
Most of the passengers in the second-class carriage were eating and discussing the news of the dead person up ahead.
Misinformation spread like a virus, and by the time Ling Shu and his companions arrived, the rumors had already turned the victim into a government official's daughter or someone killed by a lover on the train, which was both ridiculous and amusing.
Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang stood in the space near the door, observing the bustling servants coming and going, delivering meals to the passengers.
Although the food in the second-class carriage was not as good as that in the first-class carriage, it was still hot and fresh. Especially after the new regulations issued by the Ministry of Railways this year, Chinese cuisine was added to the menu, and the chefs' skills were quite good.
Ah Cai was also standing next to them, looking around suspiciously. He felt like everyone was a suspect, but also felt like no one was a suspect.
"Boss, do you think your servant might have escaped to the third carriage?" Ah Cai asked.
Before he could finish his sentence, Ling Shu pointed to a person not far away and asked, "Do you know him?"
Ah Cai looked closely and saw the man was busy tidying up things on the dining car.
"He seems to be new here. I heard someone call him Shi Er, but I haven't talked to him. Why, is he suspicious?" Ah Cai looked around but couldn't see anything wrong with Shi Er.
But in Ling Shu's eyes, Shi Er was full of problems.
First of all, he had already swapped the positions of two dishes twice in a row, left to right, right to left, and left to right again.
Repeating ineffective actions showed that he was absent-minded or had something else on his mind.
Other servants were busy running back and forth delivering meals, very enthusiastic because there were some generous customers who would allow them to keep the change as a tip when buying food.
Of course, such passengers were rare, and most people still cherished their silver coins, but there was no servant like the one Ling Shu was focusing on, who was motionless for a long time, slow and lazy.
If someone saw him and reported it, he would lose his job. Yue Dingtang walked over and patted the man's shoulder.
The man was startled and jumped up.
His reaction was too exaggerated, even Ah Cai could tell something was off.
He wanted to show off in front of the two bosses, so he quickly stepped forward and grabbed his arm.
"Did you go to the dressing room in the first-class carriage just now?"
"No, I've been here the whole time!" Shi Er shook his head and quickly denied it.
"What's on your sleeve?" Yue Dingtang asked.
Shi Er looked down at his sleeve.
There was a circle of stubborn black stains that couldn't be washed away due to frequent work, nothing special.
"Besides the stains, there's also a faint red color here, not like blood, but more like a woman's rouge."
Yue Dingtang pointed it out, but the more light and airy his tone was, the more panicked Shi Er looked on his face.
"This is soup that I accidentally spilled on myself. It won't wash off. It's not rouge!"
"Is that so?"
Suddenly, Ling Shu interrupted.
"I know women's rouge the best. Let me smell it and I'll know if you're lying."
His teasing tone didn't relax Shi Er, but instead made him tense up and wary.
Shi Er wanted to step back, but Ling Shu blocked him.
Without a word, Shi Er pushed Ling Shu aside and turned to run, but Ling Shu dodged and grabbed him by the back of his collar.
As they struggled, the dining car rattled and dishes clattered to the ground.
The passengers were alarmed and looked over.
Shi Er fought with all his might, but Ling Shu pounced on him and held him down.
Yue Dingtang stepped forward to search him.
He quickly found something.
"What is this?"
In the pocket of his layered undergarment, Yue Dingtang found a package of gold foil wrapped in a handkerchief. The foil was exquisitely carved, though the dim lighting made it difficult to discern the details.
It was undoubtedly a luxurious and valuable item, not something that should be found on a servant's person.
"Did you get this from the deceased? It seems like you killed them," Ling Shu pressed.
"It wasn't me! I just helped clean up the body! I didn't kill anyone!" Shi Er immediately protested.
But Ling Shu wasn't convinced. "Then who did kill them?"
"I...I don't know!" Shi Er stammered, clearly panicked.
Ling Shu said, "If you don't know, then you are the murderer! After we arrive at the station, we will hand you and the stolen goods over to the local police station. The real murderer will escape, and you will be the one taking the blame. Is it worth it?"
Shi Er replied with a sobbing voice, "I really don't know where he went! Before we got on the train, we made a deal. He would kill someone, and I would help to cover it up and delay time for him. As soon as we got off the train, he would fo his own way, and I would immediately go back home!"
Ling Shu said, "But the train hasn't arrived at the station yet. You can still point him out. Think carefully, where could he be hiding on the train?"
Shi Er was panting heavily.
He couldn't understand how he had only acted out of greed and agreed to help a stranger from his hometown, but now he had become a murder suspect.
The light above his head was flickering so much that he felt dizzy and almost had a hallucination.
The train beneath him was rumbling and shaking, and the cold wooden board was uncomfortable, just like the feeling of the corpse lying on the ground a moment ago.
The thought flashed through his mind, and he shuddered.
"He, he should be in the third carriage!"
"Take us there, and you might have a chance to survive!"
Shi Er was not from Nanjing, he had fled from the northeast to Nanjing to make a living.
Although Nanjing was not as prosperous as Shanghai, it was still the capital, with people coming and going, and easy to find a job.
After working hard for several years, Shi Er finally landed this job as a train attendant.
If he was willing to work hard and had a good mouth, he might be able to become a train conductor in a few years.
But such opportunities were precious.
He worked hard every day and had to support his family.
He felt the pain and hardship, gritting his teeth and enduring the loneliness of the night.
Until a few days ago, on a train from Tianjin to Nanjing, he met a fellow villager named Douli.
When Douli helped him out of a difficult situation with some passengers, they became acquainted. Douli told him about a profitable deal, one that promised great returns.
If he did this deal, he could live freely without having to worry about pleasing others. Even if he didn't become rich, he could buy some good land in his hometown and marry a wife without any problems.
Shi Er was tempted and took the first step onto the path of crime.
The deal that Douli spoke of was a deal to kill someone. He had taken on a job to kill someone on the train from Nanjing to Tianjin. This person was carrying a huge sum of money, and killing him would also mean robbing him.
As long as he could endure the time on the train, he could disappear without a trace once he got off, making it impossible for anyone to find him.
Timid Shi Er wanted to back out, but it was too late.
Under the coercion and temptation of Douli, he agreed to help clean up the scene, hide the body, and delay time. In return, Douli promised to give him a share of the dead man's wealth, ensuring a worry-free life for him in the future.
On the way to the third-class carriage, Shi Er stuttered and roughly outlined the situation. Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang were able to piece together the details, but there were still many unclear shadows that needed further investigation.
The noise was overwhelming, suffocating, and oppressive. This was the visual impact of the third-class carriage.
Ling Shu was not unfamiliar with this place, as he had sat here before.
However, he couldn't help but feel uncomfortable. But the killer was hiding here.
Shi Er scanned the crowd with his eyes closed, feeling like everyone was wearing a hat, and he couldn't distinguish anyone.
"Do you remember what the victim was wearing?" Ling Shu asked, placing his hand on Shi Er's shoulder.
"Don't be nervous. As long as you find him, we will guarantee your safety. Not only that, we will also give you a reward so that you don't have to do this kind of hard work on the train again," Ling Shu said, reaching out to Yue Dingtang.
Yue Dingtang: ?
Ling Shu grinned, "Yue Officer, can you lend me a silver dollar?"
Yue Dingtang frowned and took out money from his pocket to give to him.
After thinking for a moment, he still felt uneasy and asked, "If I lend you the money, when will you pay me back?"
It wasn't that he was stingy with the silver dollar, but Ling Shu had accumulated a lot of debt from his previous studies and had only been able to earn money without being able to spend it.
Sure enough, Ling Shu smirked and said, "Let's talk about it later, let's talk about it later!"
He stuffed the silver dollar he had taken into Shi Er's hands.
"Take it, as compensation for your reward. Now you can feel more at ease, right?"
Shi Er bit into the silver dollar and immediately felt invigorated.
His back and legs no longer hurt, and he could speak more fluently.
"Two officers, I remember that the shape of the hat was very small, and the deceased's suit didn't fit him at all. Also, there was a prominent black mole on the back of his right hand. If we search the third carriage thoroughly, we should be able to find him!"
As Shi Er led Ling Shu around to introduce him to people, Yue Dingtang reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of gold foil, examining it under the light.
The intricate carvings on it seemed to be writing, not patterns. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be Tibetan script.
Yue Dingtang couldn't help but exclaim in surprise.
Shi Er must have collected these gold foils not for their engravings, but for their quality. With so many of them, they could be melted down into a small gold ingot. However, Yue Dingtang had a feeling that there was more to these gold foils than met the eye.