MADNESS OF THE HEART

Chapter 7: Hunting Evil (Part Seven)

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Luo Xiaolong had disappeared.

"What does this have to do with my son?" Kang Yu demanded. She had been called in for questioning by the Serious Crimes Division once more, and her tone and demeanor were completely different from when she last sat in the interrogation room.

Ming Shu gazed into her eyes for around ten seconds. When she finally looked away, he said, "I'm very curious about your reaction."

Kang Yu jerked her head up. "What do you mean?"

"Luo Xiangfu and Luo Xiaolong are the two most important people in your life, are they not?"

Kang Yu looked puzzled. She pursed her lips in confusion.

"When Luo Xiangfu disappeared, you reported him missing," Ming Shu continued. "While making your report, you were calm and collected. Now, I've just informed you that Luo Xiaolong is nowhere to be found. Once again, your reaction isn't one of worry or anxiety."

Kang Yu's face gradually paled. Her throat tensed and constricted as she swallowed a few times.

"When you learned that Luo Xiangfu had indeed been murdered, your reaction was also… understated. Perhaps that was simply because you and your husband didn't have an amicable relationship. I could believe that. You were perhaps married in name only, but emotionally distant. But…"

Ming Shu tapped his index finger against his temple as he calmly steered his line of reasoning towards his point. "But now you've learned your son has gone missing. Anyone would think that a mother's instincts would cause her to worry and panic. Yet it seems you aren't at all worried that Luo Xiaolong could have encountered danger or misfortune as well."

Kang Yu's eyes had widened to saucers. Her breathing was shallow and slow, and for a moment she seemed almost like a statue, frozen and unblinking. "I…"

"You?" Ming Shu prompted.

Kang Yu shook her head suddenly, panic flooding her eyes. "Don't ask me! I don't know! I haven't seen Xiaolong in a long, long time!"

Ming Shu pierced her with a cold gaze. "You're not worried about Luo Xiaolong, and your first instinct was to assert that he had nothing to do with Luo Xiangfu's murder. Let me venture a guess. The reason you aren't worried is that you know perfectly well Luo Xiaolong is safe. Rather than going missing, he's gone into hiding. Unlike Luo Xiangfu, there's no risk of Luo Xiaolong being harmed."

Kang Yu stared at Ming Shu, dumbfounded. She couldn't believe that such a young detective, even younger than her own son, had unearthed so much information from her subtle reactions.

Ming Shu got up from his seat and paced a half-circle around the table before planting his hands on the edge of the interrogation desk. He leaned in, slightly bowing his back, and just so happened to block out the light in a way which cast a shadow over Kang Yu's face.

"Mrs. Kang Yu, on July 2nd, the day your husband was killed, you were traveling in Luocheng. That gives you a solid alibi. But your son, Luo Xiaolong, doesn't have such an irrefutable alibi," Ming Shu stated. "The night before the murder, Luo Xiaolong appeared in the neighborhood where you live. Coincidentally, he came and went through the west gate. That was the gate with the camera that you said wouldn't capture anything of note. After that, he called you a total of four times, and each call had a duration of over five minutes."

Sweat was starting to bead on Kang Yu's forehead. She gulped, swallowing a copious amount of saliva, and suddenly looked much older.

"If you know something, it's best not to hide it at this point." Ming Shu flashed a thin, shallow smile. "Because even if you hide what you know, I'll get to the bottom of things—it just might take me a little longer. But the results of me finding out on my own and you giving me your confession will be drastically different. If you want to help your only son, I'd advise you to help me save some time. If you know something, speak up now."

After a few moments of silence, Kang Yu buried her face in both hands and let out a broken sob from the back of her throat.

"It really has nothing to do with Xiaolong! Don't go after Xiaolong, he isn't the killer!"

Ming Shu remained unmoved and emotionless in the face of this sudden outburst of motherly concern. "Where is Luo Xiaolong?"

 

Based on the information Kang Yu gave, the Serious Crimes Division was able to apprehend Luo Xiaolong at a busy tour bus terminal in a neighboring city. Had they acted any later, Luo Xiaolong would have disappeared into the chaotic crowd of tourists and successfully fled the country.

When Xu Chun, a member of the Serious Crimes Division who specialized in field work, brought Luo Xiaolong back to the Bureau, Ming Shu was still busy in one of the interrogation rooms.

Lu Kun was still adamantly refusing to admit his guilt. His ravings were that of a madman, growing madder and madder by the minute. He stuck firm to his assertion that he had been poisoned and compelled by the suspense author Entombed Heart, insisting he was only a sword, while Entombed Heart was the wielder.

Managing one case while trying to crack another was no easy feat. It was only thanks to the fact that Ming Shu was young and steadfast that he kept a cool head on his shoulders. Even while juggling both these cases, he never descended into panic or confusion.

When a knock came at the door to Lu Kun's interrogation room, Ming Shu sent Fang Yuanhang to answer it. They had just received word that Luo Xiaolong had been brought in, and Ming Shu had been ordered to question him immediately. Ming Shu still had a few things he wanted to say to Lu Kun, and he wanted to buy himself a few minutes, but it seemed someone was already there to rush him out.

Before the door opened, he had no idea the person on the other side was Xiao Yu'an.

"Director Xiao!" Fang Yuanhang exclaimed.

Ming Shu instantly turned around and saw that Xiao Yu'an was looking directly at him.

"Director Xiao, what are you doing here?" Ming Shu asked. In front of an audience, Ming Shu was careful to put on a completely businesslike expression and professional demeanor when addressing Xiao Yu'an.

"I'm going to have a few words with him," Xiao Yu'an said, glancing at Lu Kun before looking back to Ming Shu. "Go on and take care of your other business."

With the order coming from the vice director himself, Ming Shu couldn't argue or find any excuse to stay. He quickly gathered up his notebook and nodded curtly to Xiao Yu'an. "Then I'll head out first."

Xiao Yu'an flashed a warm smile. There wasn't any edge to that smile, yet it carried an enigmatic sort of power.

At least, Fang Yuanhang could tell that much. But that was all he could tell.

He blinked a few times and looked back and forth between Xiao Yu'an and Ming Shu. There seemed to be a hint of something there, something that he couldn't quite grasp.

 

Luo Xiaolong dressed in a manner completely unlike his late father. Even while trying to flee the country, he dressed himself in luxury brands from head to toe. On his wrists, he wore a priceless watch and bracelets of Buddhist beads.

But his exorbitantly expensive outfit couldn't hide how he trembled with panic, cowardice, and exhaustion.

"Why did you run?" Ming Shu asked, his tone blunt and impolite. He dragged out the chair facing Luo Xiaolong with a screeching sound that could make a person's teeth ache.

Luo Xiaolong's eyebrows furrowed even deeper, like he couldn't stand the sound. "I—I didn't kill my dad!"

"Interesting. I didn't say you killed Luo Xiangfu." Ming Shu flashed a smile that wasn't a smile at all. His eyes were sharp as knives. "First, tell me why you ran. Luo Xiangfu was murdered, and you are his only son. Instead of coming straight to the city to cooperate with our investigation, you tried to head for the border to flee the country."

"What was I supposed to do? Wait for you people to come after me?" Luo Xiaolong demanded. His eyes had flown wide open with anger and indignance, but the way he carried himself still betrayed his inner cowardice.

"What have you done that would make us come after you?" Ming Shu asked. "Luo Xiangfu was murdered, and his body was disposed of. We're after the person who killed him. Does that killer happen to be you?"

"It wasn't me!" Luo Xiaolong jolted in his seat, nearly standing up with the fierceness of his protest.

"Then why did you think we would come after you?"

"I…"

Ming Shu abruptly cut to the chase. "What happened between you and Luo Xiangfu on the night of July 1st?"

At that question, Luo Xiaolong started to shake. "I… I went home to… to see… to visit him."

"Just to visit?"

"Just to visit! I'm usually real busy with work, and I hadn't been home in a long time. I happened to have some business in Dongye City recently, so I thought I'd stop by and visit while I was in the area."

"What kind of business?" Ming Shu asked.

Luo Xiaolong opened his mouth, then closed it again. Then, evasively, simply answered, "Just some business."

"You weren't in town for business at all," Ming Shu said with absolute certainty. "You came back to Dongye City for the sole purpose of asking your father for money."

Instantly, Luo Xiaolong looked like he was breaking out in a cold sweat. "No, no… I didn't ask him for money!"

Ming Shu turned and ordered someone to bring him a copy of Luo Xiangfu's autopsy report. To Luo Xiaolong, he continued, "That evening, you and Luo Xiangfu had an argument over money. That argument turned physical. In other words, you hit your father."

"He attacked me first!" Luo Xiaolong shouted, fearful and frantic. "I just blocked a few of his blows, that's all!"

When he received it, Ming Shu set the autopsy report aside. "I would advise you to first calm yourself," he said. "Then tell me exactly what happened that night, what happened the following day, and why you decided to run. Don't leave out a single detail."

It took Luo Xiaolong half an hour before he was able to force himself to calm down.

"My business needs some funding right now. Around three million or so. I told my old man about it last month, and not only did he refuse to lend me the money, he even cussed me out and called me a waste of space! But back then, I still had some time to get the money together. I planned on finding another way, but these days borrowing money isn't so easy. So I asked my mom to convince my dad. He's always listened to her, but this time they got into such a big fight that she left home.

"At the end of last month, I was at the end of my rope. My only option was to come back and ask my dad to lend me the money. I wrote up a contract and everything, saying I would return the money as soon as I turned a profit. But he wouldn't change his mind no matter what. He even chucked a teacup at me!"

Saying this, Luo Xiaolong pointed at the right side of his own neck, where there was indeed the faint impression of a fading injury.

"Right here, see? When the cup flew at me, I nearly passed out! You have to believe me, I really didn't hit him on purpose. It was self-defense! I just pushed him back a few times. He fell on the ground, and he couldn't get up for a while."

"So you left?" Ming Shu asked. "Without getting the money?"

"What could I do except leave?" Luo Xiaolong snapped. "He's gone crazy! There was no way he was going to give me the money."

"Crazy? What do you mean by that?"

"He spends all day taking pictures of gorgeous babes on the street! You don't call that crazy? He's got my mom so pissed off that she's gonna get an ulcer or something!"

"After you left," Ming Shu asked, refocusing on the matter of hand, "where did you go?"

"A bar." Luo Xiaolong wiped the sweat on his face. "Bar 812 and the Riverside Club. I'm a member at those two places. If you don't believe me, you can check the surveillance cameras in the area."

"Then on July 2nd," Ming Shu continued, "you were at the club all day?"

"Well, no."

"When did you leave Dongye City?"

"The morning of the 3rd."

"So, that's to say," Ming Shu continued pointedly, "at the time of Luo Xiangfu's murder, you were in Dongye City?"

Luo Xiaolong jolted in his seat again and worked himself back into a frenzy. "You just asked me why I ran, right? I'll tell you, I'll tell you! Because I went to talk to my old man, and now he's dead. If you guys can't catch the real murderer, you're going to pin it all on me and torture me until I confess!"

The other detective in the room, the one recording their conversation, scoffed and couldn't hold his silence any longer. "Torture? What decade do you think you're living in? Do you see this camera? Every second of this interrogation will be recorded, and the footage will be sent straight to a supervisory committee. Who the hell would torture you?"

Ming Shu, on the other hand, calmly took Luo Xiaolong's accusation in stride. Unperturbed, he continued, "On the day of the 2nd. Where exactly were you, and what were you doing?"

Luo Xiaolong had, however, latched onto the recording detective's words. "You can't use torture to force me to confess?"

"On the day of the 2nd," Ming Shu repeated, "what were you doing?"

After half a minute, Luo Xiaolong's face shifted into an obnoxious grin. He let out an arrogant and downright stupid laugh. "I didn't kill the old man. I just pushed him on the night of the 1st. Whatever happened after that is none of my business!"

Ming Shu stared at him, then laughed as well. "Are you under the impression that I only investigate murder cases, and not other crimes as well?"

Luo Xiaolong's laughter abruptly stopped. "What do you mean?"

"It's very simple and easy to understand. The night before Luo Xiangfu was murdered, you fought with him. On the day of his murder, you were in Dongye City. You knew you would be a person of interest in the police investigation, so as soon as you heard about Luo Xiangfu's death, you tried to flee across the border."

Ming Shu spoke calmly, not too quickly and not too slowly, like he was simply telling a pleasant tale.

Luo Xiaolong seemed to still be missing the point. "I told you, I was afraid you would catch me and torture me, so…"

"So that was your reason for running?" Ming Shu steepled his fingers in front of himself. "A normal person's reaction to those circumstances would be to go directly to the police and provide an alibi. Why did you run?"

Luo Xiaolong was shocked speechless.

Ming Shu's eyes seemed to turn colder in that instant. "Because you can't provide an alibi."

"No!" Luo Xiaolong shook his head furiously, like his life depended on it. "I'm not the killer!"

Ming Shu lifted a hand, holding up his index finger and middle finger. "Logically speaking, there can only be two reasons for your inability to produce an alibi. One, you are the murderer."

"That's bullshit!" Luo Xiaolong's eyes were bulging so wide it was as though his eyeballs were ready to pop out of his head at any second. "I didn't do anything!"

Ignoring him, Ming Shu continued, "Two, you're afraid to tell us what you were really doing on the day of the 2nd."

Luo Xiaolong choked on a gasp.

"Now, that makes it very easy to guess the truth," Ming Shu said, smiling. "On that day, you were doing something unlawful. That's why you made the decision to run."

"It's not like that…" In his frustration, Luo Xiaolong slapped the table. "I didn't!""Let's say you aren't the killer. I'll be so bold as to venture a guess as to what you were doing that day." Ming Shu leaned forward and lowered his voice. "Drug use or drug trafficking. Pick one."

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