ZhouXiang got dressed and went downstairs as quickly as possible and then went into the kitchen to cook.
The refrigerator is full of foods. ZhouXiang assumed that JiangYuan had brought them. He even thinks that none of these people knows the hardships of life. How could two people eat this much food? Some could go bad the next day. Seeing that, he felt gloomy.
ZhouXiang put on an apron and got busy in the kitchen. He cooked very fast, working skillfully. In just a short a time, the aroma of the food permeated into the room.
ZhouXiang didn't know when YanMingXiu had come downstairs. YanMingXiu stood like a stone sculpture while observing ZhouXiang busily cooking in the kitchen. That broad back wrapped in an apron with his narrow waist and slender long legs, his slightly exposed pale neck and short stubbles, with his skillful and efficient swift movements made YanMingXiu felt as if he had returned to three years ago.
He didn’t know how many times he had sat on the dining table and watched ZhouXiang cook, smelling the aroma coming from the kitchen that made his belly rumble from hunger. Many times, he would get impatient and walk into the kitchen to hug the man from behind, urging him to hurry up. In return, he would get a particularly gentle smile.
Unconsciously, he stood up and walked step by step into the kitchen.
The person in front of him suddenly turned his head around, but this is not the face in his mind. YanMingXiu’s heart trembled in that instant; his body dejectedly drooped.
ZhouXiang, “President Yan, sit there and wait a bit.”
YanMingXiu sat down again. He tried to calm himself down by taking big breadths.
He really didn't know what is happening to himself. Just being with this ZhouXiang, his entire person could not be calm.
After a while, ZhouXiang brought out the rice, three dishes and a bowl of soup to the table.
YanMingXiu had just calmed down and now his heart started to beat erratically again. The rice bowl is placed on the left and the bigger soup bowl on the right, the meat dish in the middle and the vegetarian dishes on both sides, all lined up in front of him. The big bowl of soup was on the other side. The way these foods were place are exactly the same way as that person! Even the food dishes were commonly seen on the dining table from before.
YanMingXiu trembled as he picked up his chopsticks and put a piece of lettuce into his mouth. Then he slammed his chopsticks down on the table and glared fiercely at ZhouXiang.
ZhouXiang had just picked up his bowl and got startled by him, knitting his brows, “What’s wrong? Not to your taste?” That shouldn't be. These are what YanMingXiu usually eats.
All this is becoming more and more impossible for YanMingXiu to accept.
If he closed his eyes and not look at the face, what is the difference compared to sitting across from (older) ZhouXiang? How could there be so many coincidences in the world? So much that two people could make the same exact foods.
This flavor… he could not forget even in his dreams.
YanMingXiu gnawed his teeth, “Who taught you to cook?”
ZhouXiang dazedly responded, “My mom.”
“Where is your mother from?”
“Local.” ZhouXiang looked at him in confusion, “President Yan, what's the matter? If it doesn't suit your appetite, I could make other foods. There are a lot of things in the refrigerator.”
YanMingXiu continued to stare at him fixatedly.
Could it be that he is overthinking? Or could he still have that preconceived notion thinking that whatever he (younger ZhouXiang) did was similar to (older) ZhouXiang?
After all, they are two completely different people. He couldn't explain this biggest contradiction at all.
YanMingXiu looked at the table full of home cooked meal that is especially suiting to his appetite, but he couldn’t eat it. He merely tasted every dish. The more he tasted, the more frightened he became. Then he just put down his chopsticks.
ZhouXiang couldn’t guess what he was thinking, nor did he want to attempt. His last meal was noon yesterday. He hadn't eaten for 20 hours so he was very famished. When YanMingXiu picked up his cellphone and went to the balcony to make a call, ZhouXiang just buried his head in the dishes and ate most of it.
"Hello, Team Leader Wang, it is me."
“Hey, President Yan, hello… hello.”
“Team Leader Wang, has there been any progress?”
“I had wanted to give you a call. Okay, so since you didn't want to alarm the neighbors, this has really caused a huge problem for our work. You probably don’t know this but when the people from our bureau went over to investigate, they are like the little thief, sneaking around, hehehe."
YanMingXiu wasn't in the mood to be joking with him. He asked bluntly, “Team Leader Wang, just tell me the current progress directly?"
Team Leader Wang felt dejected and no longer attempted to get close. He responded in a more professional tone, “According to the most current report, we found a particularly big loophole. There seemed to be indications that the scene was tampered with twice.”
“What do you mean? We didn’t tamper with the scene.”
“Yes, you guys have been very careful, so the impact on the scene was very minimal. But there was still some damage to the living room. This is what we call the first time. What I'm saying as the second time is just a few days later. From the degree of dust deposition, it was at least three days later. There is evidence that someone may have entered the condo, but in many places we can’t tell when the scene was caused.”
“Are you saying that the thief went back there again!?" When YanMingXiu heard this part, he was about to explode.
“This… has not been confirmed, whether this was the thief and even more uncertain whether it was the same thief. But a lot of evidence on the surface pointed to someone else having been to the scene a few days after the incident. Since you had said that except for that night, you haven't been back to the condo, this is very suspicious. Could it possible that it is the two people that discovered the thief?"“I'll confirm this with them," YanMingXiu clenched his fist. He had some suspicions that LanXiRong did it. After all, LanXiRong also knew where ZhouXiang hid his spare key so it's easy for him to go in. The reason why YanMingXiu didn't take the key out from the fire hydrant box was simply because…
Because he thought that ZhouXiang might come back one day.
He didn't expect that the person he had been waiting for didn't come, instead a thief and a love rival came.
YanMingXiu is so furious that his eyes became bloodshot. If he caught the thief, he will definitely make him pay.
Team Leader Wang continued, “The other point is just our preliminary assumption but is inconclusive.”
"This is about the door lock. Because President Yan repeatedly request that we not alarm the neighbors, our people can only close the door and work from inside the house, but this makes it a challenge to study the door lock. People come and go during the day and lighting is bad at night, so we haven't been able to do a thorough investigation on the door lock. We simply looked at it. According to the comrades who are familiar with lock crimes, the door lock was not damaged and there were no signs of using unlocking tools to unlock. It seems more likely that the door lock was opened with a key. However, this does not rule out that the thief might have used a more advanced unlocking tool which wouldn't leave any traces. We just didn't feel that it was necessary since he had already rummaged through the house. Even without looking at the lock, you already know that there was a thief in the house. This is what baffled us. If you wanted this confirmed, we must remove the lock and bring it back to the lab for further studies. It's best if we could also remove the security door…”
“No!” YanMingXiu adamantly refused, “The door must not be touched. The lock… let me think about it.”
YanMingXiu's heart trembled erratically again.
Opened with a key?
How could it be? If one didn't know where the spare key is, how can he know that the key is hidden in the curled-up water hose in the fire hydrant box? And that water hose was curled up a few rounds so hiding a small key is easy but what thief is this smart to have known that?
There are too many loopholes with this.
YanMingXiu first doubted LanXiRong. After all, he didn’t see the thief with his own eyes. This was all told to him by LanXiRong. Moreover, when he and Team Leader Wang's team went back to the scene that day and he was trying to verify what was lost, he really couldn't say what was really lost. Actually, he could even say that at glance, besides the condo seeming to look chaotic, there seems to be nothing missing.
He knew too much about this little condo. Every little thing in the home had been imprinted in his mind. With the information provided by LanXiRong, he found out with much difficulty that ZhouXiang's cash on the bedside table was missing but he remembered that there was not much money. There were also ZhouXiang's SLR camera that cost over ¥20,000 and several lenses and a laptop. These are things that a thief should have taken. However, these were all left in its original location. This thief's behavior is really baffling.
If, as he suspects, that there was really no thief from the beginning, that this was all self-directed and self-acted by LanXiRong, then there are too many things that don't make sense. For example, why would LanXiRong do this? How could he possibly need a couple thousands of yuan? Besides, why should he inform himself (YanMingXiu)? If he didn't' say it, he wouldn't have known anything.
So what are the other possibilities?
YanMingXiu’s head is spinning fast, thinking of every other possibility.
If the door lock is really opened with a key, then the people that knew of the location of the spare key is him (YanMingXiu), LanXiRong and…
YanMingXiu almost couldn't breathe. Team Leader Wang called him several times from the other line but he still didn't respond.
If…if it's really ZhouXiang…but is it possible? He… he's alive? Will he come back? If he came back, why did he have to hide?
YanMingXiu stopped himself from thinking further because he knew that when a person is frantically hoping for something, he will let his imagination run wild. He will be deceived by his own delusions and lose his unbiased judgment. He can’t be like this, he needed to remain calm.
"President Yan? …Hello?…. President Yan?"
“Team Leader Wang.” YanMingXiu's voice trembled, “Let me think about it. I'll find a time for us to go back there together. You could remove the lock but you have to study it in the house. You can't take the lock away. After you're done, put it back in. The condo needs to remain exactly the same, you understand?"
Team Leader Wang dazedly responded, “This…”
“Team Leader Wang, is that possible?"
Team Leader Wang bitterly responded, "Fine, there is really no other way.”
YanMingXiu heaved a long sigh, “Team Leader Wang, I have something else I wanted to ask for your help."
"What is it?"
“Help me investigate a person.” YanMingXiu glanced through the French door and looked at the person eating inside the house. His deep eyes revealed an incomprehensible meaning, he gloomily responded, “His name is ZhouXiang…”
End of the chapter