Chapter 11: Between Time and Space
When Zhou Xiao Zhuan reaches the top of the stairs, he spots Han Chen standing by the side of the wall smoking.
Zhou Xiao Zhuan is still a little scared of this great detective, but he respects him a lot. He puts away his usual careless personality when he talks to Bai Jin Xi and walks to him properly. He hands over the information, “Super Detective Han, these are the details of four additional suspects.”
Han Chen takes the files from him while holding his cigarette between his fingers, “Mm.”
He turns around and walks into the room. Zhou Xiao Zhuan thinks for a minute and says, “About that……Super Detective Han.”
Han Chen turns his head to the side to look at him.
“Our Leader has a bit of temper, but she’s very nice and very knowledgeable. She has always admired you,” he says quickly, “so please don’t mind.”
Han Chen glances at him, doesn’t say a word, and walks into the room.
Zhou Xiao Zhuan walks away cheerfully, believing that he has helped Leader to flatter this great detective.
He pushes the door open; the room is quiet. The sun shines into his eyes.
Han Chen raises his head and sees a tall figure standing beside Bai Jin Xi’s desk and bending over her. The sun shines on the two of them; he can just barely see Xu Si Bai’s refined side profile getting close to Bai Jin Xi’s cheek.
He probably didn’t think that anyone would suddenly come into the room at lunch time; Xu Si Bai turns his head away instantly.
Their eyes meet.
Han Chen walks to his desk and sits without any expression. He throws the files onto the desk.
The office isn’t big to begin with, so their desks are only a meter apart. Xu Si Bai glances at Han Chen and slowly stands up straight. It’s just that his handsome face is slightly red.
Han Chen lowers his head and starts reading the files as if the man in front of him does not exist.
“Boohoohoo……” a soft sound of crying suddenly breaks the awkward silence in the room.
The two men look toward the person who is making the noise——Bai Jin Xi.
The sun is shining directly on her face; a face that is pale and smooth like jade. Her dark eyebrows are scrunching slightly. Her expression looks sad; a drop of tear slowly runs down from her eye accompanied by the sound of crying in her dream.
Xu Si Bai is a bit worried. He gets closer to her, bends down, and stares at her. Just when he wants to wipe away her tears with his hand, an impassive voice comes on, “She’s already crying, and yet you still want to kiss her?”
Xu Si Bai freezes and lifts his eyes to look at him. But Han Chen still has his head down reading the newspapers. He seems unconcerned, as if he doesn’t care about what happens in the room.
Xu Si Bai reaches out his hand and wipes away her tear anyway. Bai Jin Xi, who is still in her dreams, seems to be able to feel the comfort from the outside world; she mumbles something softly, her eyebrows ease up, and she stops crying.
The door opens again with a loud thump. Zhou Xiao Zhuan is here.
He immediately notices Leader sleeping peacefully while one man is sitting and the other is standing in silence. It feels a bit odd, but he doesn’t put too much thought on it. He smiles at Xu Si Bai, greeting him softly, and puts the file in his hand on Han Chen’s desk, “Super Detective Han, there’s one more.”
Xu Si Bai picks up the lunch boxes, turns around, and leaves. He suddenly stops at the doorway and calls out, “Xiao Zhuan.”
“Hm?” Xiao Zhuan looks at him quickly.
“Take good care of your Leader,” he says, “Don’t let anyone……bully her.”
Zhou Xiao Zhuan is a little surprised. Han Chen has also lifted his eyes to look at him.
Xiao Zhuan takes a peek at Han Chen secretly and says in his heart: Who can bully Leader? The only person who has been bullying her for the past few days is the one right in front of him. Is Forensic Investigator Xu being jealous, or is he jealous, or is he jealous?
He laughs without revealing his emotions, “Forensic Investigator Xu can rest assured. I’ll definitely take good care of her.”
Xu Si Bai leaves. Zhou Xiao Zhuan also goes back to the larger office to get busy. Han Chen sits in the room by himself, takes a look at Bai Jin Xi who’s still asleep, and continues with reading the suspects’ files.
Bai Jin Xi is having a dream again.
The foggy forest and the pattering waterfall. Damp grass lie under her feet.
He is sitting under the fall just like before, quietly staring at her.
“Who are you?” she asks.
But he doesn’t answer until his pair of dark brown eyes slowly becomes watery.
“Let’s get married after you graduate,” a deep man’s voice murmurs into her ear, “I won’t marry anyone else but you in my life.”
Bai Jin Xi stares at him and slowly reveals a smile.
He also slowly starts to smile.
All of a sudden, Bai Jin Xi hears a woman crying out loud.
She looks around but doesn’t see anyone else. When she turns back, he has already disappeared.
Heavy fog surrounds her, making it hard to see afar.
She suddenly realizes that she is the one crying.
It’s she, Bai Jin Xi, who is standing in the empty forest like a graveyard, crying her heart out.
Dreams are a reflection of reality.
Dreams are a way of releasing yourself subconsciously.
But if she once loved someone so deeply and has suffered many hardships for him, why has she never once thought of him in these years? Why has she forgotten everything about him completely?
Bai Jin Xi opens her eyes slowly.
The first thing that comes in view is the familiar ceiling, then the chair, whiteboard, and computer……it’s just that it’s very dark.
The sun has set?
She wipes her tears and sits up.
She’s a little startled once she does.
The sun hasn’t actually set yet. It’s just that the curtains have been lowered by someone, making the room dark. Han Chen is sitting in a dark corner with his back straight but his face is not visible.
The lunch boxes that were on her desk are gone. Xu Si Bai has left already.
Bai Jin Xi sniffs her nose and doesn’t say anything.
Why is this fella all gloomy and quiet when it’s daytime?
From the first day she’s met him, he seems to be always gloomy.
“Bai Jin Xi,” he suddenly calls her name; his voice is low.
“What?” her voice is a bit raspy from crying just now. Talking in the dark room suddenly makes her feel empty.
“You’re done crying?” he asks.
Bai Jin Xi is stunned.
He really did see her cry. So embarrassing.
“I’ll help you solve this case.”
Bai Jin Xi is a bit shocked. After a moment of silence, she asks, “You’re being so kind? What’s the condition?”
“Haha…..” he chuckles, and then says calmly, “The condition is that you have to help me do one thing.”
“What is it?”
“A private matter.”
Bai Jin Xi thinks for a minute.
“Okay,” she answers simply.
Han Chen tilts his head and lights up a cigarette. The fire sparks dance between his fingers, and he doesn’t speak again.
Bai Jin Xi stands up, reaches out her hands, and pulls the curtains up lightly. “Swoooosh——” the room is lit again as the dazzling afternoon sunlight leaps inside. It must have been too sudden; she sees Han Chen, who’s sitting by the window, turn his head to the side slightly.
Bai Jin Xi glances at him and is a bit shocked.
His nose is covered with a thin layer of sweat. His handsome face seems awfully pale, yet it is also unusually flushed.
The air conditioning is on, so it’s impossible for him to be like this due to the heat.
He’s in pain?
“What’s wrong?” Bai Jin Xi asks in surprise.
He turns his head to the other side calmly, “Nothing. Let’s start. Go through the case.”
His voice is cold and deep; dignified but not angry. Other than hearing him point out three suspicious areas at the first crime scene, Bai Jin Xi has never heard him analyse a case before. She can’t help but shudder knowing his fame.
“Hang up the map,” he says while inhaling the cigarette.
Bai Jin Xi says as she hangs up the map onto the whiteboard, “Super Detective Han, although we don’t get along well, I’m someone who takes the big picture into consideration. If you are not feeling well, you should go home and rest. If you need to see a doctor, I know Director Zhao at the Guanhu hospital very well. He’s quite a good doctor. If you want to see a traditional Chinese doctor, I also know one that’s very good. You don’t need to lose anything. You just need to agree to cancel our bet. How about it?”
She turns around to look at him after hanging up the map. But he seems to look better now; he’s no longer sweating and he seems even more unconcerned.
Bai Jin Xi, “……hmph!”
He presses his cigarette into the ashtray, stands up, and walks over. With one hand in his pocket, he picks up a pen with his other. Since they’re standing close, his fitting dark shirt and black casual pants accent his wide shoulders, slim waist, and long legs further. He’s clearly a handsome and attractive man, yet his aura is cold and fierce.
She has really never seen a criminal investigator like him, a super detective like him.
He raises his head to look at the map; his gaze is serene.
Bai Jin Xi is rather curious to know how he’s going to find the offender out of 75 suspects.
Even up to now, it’s not that Bai Jin Xi is completely out of ideas. With her skills, she’ll definitely be able to find the most suspicious one out of the 75 once she asks them one by one. But it would take a lot of work and it might alert the real suspect. Furthermore, it would also greatly affect the victims——this is what she is determined to avoid doing.
Therefore, if Han Chen doesn’t lend a hand, she’ll definitely have to think of another way. Since he’s willing to lend a hand……she might as well sit and watch.
He glances at her with the corner of his eye and says casually, “You have a poor sense of direction?
Bai Jin Xi, “Mm……”
“How poor is your sense of direction?”
He doesn’t look at her again. He draws two circles with the pen held by his slender fingers, and then stops.
“The case is solved with one step,” he says impassively.
Bai Jin Xi’s heart skips a beat. He then continues, “But for a person with a poor sense of direction, it’s three steps. Listen well.”
Bai Jin Xi’s mouth twitches.
“Firstly, every person has his or her usual traveling path that they take,” he speaks steadily in a deep voice. He raises his hand and points to the circles on the map, “Ma Xiao Fei, Ji Ya Xin. Home, department store, restaurant, supermarket. Everyone has a map.” The tip of his pen moves upward and circles Blue Star Mechanical Factory.
“The offender also has his own map: the factory, restaurant, internet cafe……” He glances at her, “And the reason why he chose the victims in the beginning must be because of their usual traveling paths. At some point in space and time, their paths intersected. He, noticed them.”
Bai Jin Xi is shocked.
His explanation seems complicated at first, but after she thinks about it for a moment, isn’t it all nonsense? He obviously bumped into the victims under some circumstance and then decided to target them.
But thinking more thoroughly again, she seems to understand it more. Time, space, people, traveling path……It’s as if there’s a three-dimensional map in her mind with these three people in it.
It feels useful! But she can’t quite pinpoint how useful it is.
Han Chen glances at her and continues, “Secondly, after their first encounter, in order to survey the area as well as to satisfy his desire, his travelling path would often overlap with theirs. The victims have also confirmed this.”
Bai Jin Xi’s heart pounds, and she feels as if something is about to emerge from her mind. But she can’t seem to express it clearly at the moment. It’s just that her eyes are gleaming.
Han Chen’s gaze is indifferent as he draws several circles and links them on the map with the pen smoothly. He throws the pen down after he finishes and puts both of his hands in his pockets. He says impassively, “You guys reviewed the security cameras around the area of where the incidents happened, but the offender thought about this too, so that’s why nothing was found.
After drawing out the victims’ travelling paths for the past few days before the incident, there must be a security camera on this route. Of those 80 suspects, whoever appears at the same place and time as the victims the most is the real suspect.”
He pauses, and then smiles slightly, “Even if he was so smart as to dodge from the cameras while following the victims, before he started stalking them, he would have still needed to take transit or walk from work to the victims’ areas of activities. These routes all have cameras. Whoever appears the most on these routes prior to the incidents is the suspect.”
Bai Jin Xi understands completely now.
Which case doesn’t require reviewing security cameras? Which criminal investigator doesn’t know to investigate from the videos?
But no one has reviewed them like the way he has in mind. He’s thinking outside of the box, yet he has successfully set out a new way of identifying the suspect.
One step. It’s really just one step.
She has given over ten descriptions through her analyses to identify the suspect. He has only grasped one point and is already able to find the suspect. That’s right, no matter how intelligent the suspect is and how good he is at wiping away his footprints, it’s impossible for him to start avoiding the cameras all day before the incident. His tracks from before and after the incident will not disappear.
This is exactly the key point that Han Chen has grasped.
Bai Jin Xi suddenly understands why veteran investigators praise Han Chen. It’s because the way he thinks is very clear and simple.
It’s clear and simple, yet powerful. He’s using the simplest logic and method that everyone knows, yet he uses them with such care and accuracy; unique from everyone else.
Bai Jin Xi is really getting excited. Her mind is working at full blast after feeling the pleasure and joy from sudden realization. She grabs the pen that he has thrown on the desk, steps up to the map, and around the lines that he has drawn, she draws a few more. She says as she does, “Alright, this is great. Super Detective Han, you sure have some skills.”
Han Chen tilts his head to light a cigarette while leaning his body against the side of the desk. His gaze is calm, as if he has heard many of these words of admiration before. He watches Bai Jin Xi working cheerfully from behind. He half closes his eyelids and doesn’t say anything.
Bai Jin Xi thinks happily, “After we confirm the suspect, we’ll search his place immediately without giving him any time to breathe. We’ll definitely find evidence……”
“Let me know when you’ve confirmed who it is,” he says dismissively and then leaves the office.
Bai Jin Xi’s eyes follow his cold and straight back and doesn’t say a word.
After Han Chen leaves Guanhu station, Bai Jin Xi and the others immediately start to investigate base on his method. He on the other hand, has taken a cab to return to the hotel directly.
He’s staying at a riverside hotel; it’s tidy and relaxing, and it has an exquisite view.
Once the door is open, you can immediately see the clean white walls. The chandelier illuminates the room with warm lighting, and the big bed covered in white sheets sit quietly. The only evidence of someone actually living in the place is the luggage lying on the table at the foyer with a few pieces of clothes on top of it.
He walks in, takes off his shoes, unbuttons the first two buttons of his shirt, slowly makes his way to the table, and takes out a bottle of painkillers from the drawer. He shakes two pills out, throws them into his mouth, and swallows them.
He walks to the floor-to-ceiling windows and sits in the armchair. He looks afar quietly for a while before taking out the cell phone in his pocket.
He had turned it to vibrate when he was discussing about the case with Bai Jin Xi during the day. It looks like he has a bunch of unanswered calls.
The first one is from Qin Wen Long, the Captain of the criminal investigation team at the public security bureau (provincial station). He dials back.
“Han Chen, are you done fooling around? You only have a few days left in your vacation,” Captain Qin’s stern voice has a hint of cheerfulness, “Hurry up and come back. There are a bunch of cases waiting for you to solve.”
“Mm,” Han Chen takes out a pack of cigarettes, “I’ll come back on time.”
Captain Qin says a few reminders and Han Chen answers to them all. He doesn’t forget to tell Han Chen before ending the call, “Remember to bring some specialty goods from Jiangcheng back.”
Han Chen mumbles in acceptance and hangs up.
The other unanswered calls are from the same person. There are also seven to eight text messages. Han Chen glances at them indifferently and deletes all of the messages and calls from the log. He throws the phone onto the bed, leans against the armchair while smoking, gazes out to the distant scenery of Jiangcheng, and slowly closes his eyes.
He falls asleep quickly.
With his head resting on the back of the chair, his body is completely still. Both of his arms are lying on top of the armrests, and only the cigarette between his fingers is burning away slowly.
The cigarette eventually finishes, and the burning slowly reaches to his fingers.
He suddenly feels a slight burning sensation. Han Chen, who is in deep sleep, shakes his hands furiously and wakes up in fright. Realizing that his cigarette is finished, he calmly presses it into the ashtray, and lifts his head to look out the window.
Outside the window, the sky is already dark. The river is like a dark ribbon surrounding the brightly lit Jiangcheng.
He gazes at the night scenery and lets out a long breath.
The light of dawn slowly reveals from the East side.
The sun rises and sets; the sky darkens and lights up again.
Jiangcheng continues to be scorching, crowded and busy. The two sexual assault cases that happened at an area of Jiangcheng is no more but a small river entering the sea; without a trace of impact and causing no ripples of disruption to the city. There aren’t even many people who know of it.
Two days have passed in the blink of an eye.
It’s Saturday again. It has already been a week since Ma Xiao Fei’s incident.
In the past few days, Bai Jin Xi has been leading Zhou Xiao Zhuan and the rest to work on the case day and night. They reviewed all the security camera videos on the overlapping paths of the victims and the suspects. They’ve also done some intricate analyses. Even though Bai Jin Xi has a poor sense of direction, Zhou Xiao Zhuan and the other investigators are very good with directions, so they progressed quickly.
Han Chen on the other hand hasn’t been at the office at all for these past few days. Just like the rumors, he appears and disappears unpredictably. Bai Jin Xi has only heard from the civil police officers that they saw Super Detective Han visiting the slums and red light district in the East end. No one knows what he is up to. Bai Jin Xi suppresses her curiosity for the time being and focuses on the case.
It’s the evening of Saturday, and thankfully, their efforts have not gone to waste.
The same young man has been appearing more and more frequently in the security camera videos.
The biggest suspect of the case has finally surfaced.
Chapter 11: Between Time and Space