Half an hour later, on the Jiangu and Gongli Expressway.

Yan Yi played the Bluetooth out loud in the car, and the rearview mirror reflected his irritated furrowed brows. “I’m telling you, Old Fang, how can you become more and more like your old self? We are like fleas tied to the same rope. No matter what clues you’ve thought of, at least inform us first. It’s also a precaution in case something happens to you and the leads are interrupted, don’t you think?”

The next moment, Fang Zhenghong’s angry roar came through the Bluetooth, “You’re the flea! A flea after autumn!”

“Tsk, fine, fine, am I not good enough?” Yan Yi helplessly said, “What do you mean by the phrase ’thought of clues’?”

Fang Zhenghong stuttered and obviously refused to elaborate, but when he was pressed, he cursed, “Who said we are on the same boat? Who knows what secret activities you have in private! I won’t tell you anymore. I’m on a long-distance bus now. We’ll contact each other when I get to Jianning!”

Yan Yi raised his voice, “Hey, you dare to take a ride-hailing car! Share your real-time trip, although you’re not a young girl but an old man, safety is still…”

Fang Zhenghong angrily hung up the phone.

“You guys think he’s probably hyperthyroidism, right? Always anxious and irritable,” Yan Yi shook his head and sighed, “I have good intentions, but they’re treated as donkey’s liver and lungs. Even if he doesn’t have money or looks, unlike you two taking ride-hailing cars with higher risks, he should still have some basic safety awareness.”

Yang Mei and Qi Sihao exchanged glances.

“Are you saying that Qi Team has money and I have looks?” Yang Mei finally asked uncertainly.

“Oh no, I mean you and your Brother Jiang,” Yan Yi pointed a finger at Yang Mei while gripping the steering wheel, then pointed at Jiang Ting, “You have money.” And then to Jiang Ting, “He has looks.”

Yang Mei: “…”

“Fang Zhenghong can’t be completely cleared of suspicion for now.” Jiang Ting, in the passenger seat, seemed completely indifferent as ever, saying, “Many veteran police officers have the problem of being overly suspicious. Coupled with his sensitive and suspicious nature, it’s normal for him to have years of prejudice against you. So until your suspicion is completely ruled out, he probably won’t easily share any clues.”

“Alright, keep up with him!” Yan Yi, out of habit, reached into his pocket for a cigarette, but before he could put it in his mouth, he suddenly remembered something, regretfully threw it back into the miscellaneous box, and said, “Damn.”

Qi Sihao promptly took out a lighter, “Yan Team, no lighter? I have one…”

Jiang Ting and Yang Mei simultaneously blurted out, “No!”

They stopped them too late.

“No, no, no lighter,” Yan Yi joyfully rejected Qi Sihao’s lighter, but the next moment, he accepted the stage, lights, and microphone that Qi Sihao handed over:

“Come, come, come, look, when finding a boyfriend, you should find someone like me—”

Jiang Ting took a deep breath, leaning against the back of his seat, while Yang Mei covered her ears in unbearable pain.

“As a mature and considerate boyfriend, what matters is not what you do for your partner, but what you are willing not to do. For example, if Brother Jiang has poor health, it’s best not to smoke too much. A boyfriend as excellent as me will willingly extinguish the danger of secondhand smoke in the cradle. And for example, I will restrict his consumption of sweets and force him to eat more meat and rice. All of this is for the sake of his health. Only a mature and rational man like me is the best choice for Brother Jiang as a spouse… Understand? That’s why I am the best embodiment and template of the word ‘boyfriend.’ Learn from me, both of you, learn from me!”

Jiang Ting: “…”

Yang Mei: “…”

Qi Sihao’s face had a blank expression.

Yan Yi felt proud, and the car roared toward the Jianning Expressway toll station.

· With a loud bang, Fang Zhenghong rushed into his home, startling his wife who was preparing to cook. “Hey! Weren’t you on a business trip?”

“The pair of trousers I wore when it wasn’t cold yet, the dark blue ones with the hem cut, did you send them to the dry cleaners?”

“Of course not, didn’t you say you wouldn’t wear them anymore?” His wife, holding a basket of vegetables, pointed to the other room. “I was just thinking of keeping them for the time being, it would be a shame to throw them away. Maybe I’ll cut them and make a nest for Wangcai’s puppies when she gives birth…”

Without a word, Fang Zhenghong rushed into the other room, ignoring his wife’s series of questions, and opened the chest of drawers to rummage through the pile of miscellaneous items. After a moment, he finally caught sight of the familiar dark blue fabric and hurriedly pulled it out.

“What are you doing? You scared me! Hey, what’s the matter with you? Are you having dinner at home tonight, huh?”

Fang Zhenghong didn’t have time to answer. He put the trousers into a sealed bag that he found in the study, sealed it up, and said, “You don’t have to wait for me for dinner tonight!” Without looking back, he shouted and rushed out the door, leaving his wife standing there bewildered.

Fang Zhenghong, holding the sealed bag tightly, hurriedly walked out of the residential area towards the silver Hyundai Elantra parked across the street. He took out his phone, opened the contact list, and instinctively called “Tech Investigation Old Huang.”

“Hello?” Huang Xing answered the call after just a couple of rings, his voice sounding surprised, “Fang Team, what’s the matter?”

“Oh, I have…,” Fang Zhenghong was about to continue speaking when he suddenly remembered something and stopped.

Huang Xing asked, “What is it? Hello, Fang Team?”

Is the tech investigation safe? Fang Zhenghong stood at the entrance of the residential area, suddenly having this thought.

His mind was in chaos just a moment ago, and he hadn’t thought it through carefully before dialing the phone. But in that instant when he heard Huang Xing’s voice, he suddenly realized a terrifying fact: If his speculation was wrong, then the killer was very likely…

If it was him, there was no department in the Municipal Bureau, not even a single corner, that could be considered safe, and the suspicions surrounding that guy named Yan couldn’t be easily cleared.

“What are you doing, Old Fang? Bad signal? Hello?”

Fang Zhenghong’s expressionless face pressed the end call button fiercely.

Who else could he turn to? Who else was safe?

After working in the Jianning Municipal Bureau for most of his life, Fang Zhenghong, now getting old, realized that the nest he had built over half a lifetime was actually a treacherous trap. The fear, panic, and cowardice that he himself was unwilling to admit were like layers of spider webs, tightly entwining his heart, making it difficult to breathe and causing his limbs to go weak and numb.

Who else was safe? Who else could he seek help from?

Yes, that person!

Fang Zhenghong’s eyes brightened, even blaming himself for his panic and confusion just now, and immediately found the person’s number and dialed it. The phone rang for about eight or nine times before a somewhat weary voice came from the other end, “Hello, may I ask who…”

“Hello, hello, I’m Fang Zhenghong, from the Municipal Public Security Bureau. Do you remember me?”

After a two-second blank in response to hearing “Municipal Public Security Bureau,” the person on the other end reacted to the name “Fang Zhenghong.”

“Oh, yes, Fang Officer! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you. I’ve been so busy that my head is spinning. Hahaha… How’s everything at your home recently? Is there something I can help with?”

Click!

Fang Zhenghong searched for the source of the sound.

A figure leaned against the door of his silver Hyundai Elantra, with two slender legs crossed, one hand in the pocket, and the other taking off sunglasses. His fair face showed a slight disapproval.

That was Jiang Ting.

Helplessly, Fang Zhenghong stopped in his tracks. He wanted to continue speaking, but sighed and hurriedly said into the phone, “Someone suddenly came over here. Let’s talk when we meet later.”

The other party answered in a series of assurances, and Fang Zhenghong hung up the phone.

Jiang Ting sent a text message to Yan Yi: [I’m blocking Fang Team at the entrance of the residential area.]

“What about that guy named Yan?” Fang Zhenghong approached, asking cautiously.

“Yan Yi doesn’t know which building you specifically live in, so we split up to block you. He probably went to the rear gate of the residential area.” Jiang Ting put away his phone, looked up at Fang Zhenghong, and tapped on the door of the Elantra behind him. “You’re tracking Yan Yi with your own car, and you hope he won’t notice?”

Fang Zhenghong’s face turned pale, red, and yellow. “This is my son’s car that he brought back home during his vacation, and I used a false license plate…”

Jiang Ting said, “You have great doubts about Yan Yi’s character, morals, and intelligence, Fang Team.”

Fang Zhenghong sullenly remained silent.

After all, Jiang Ting was an old police officer who was twenty years older than him. Seeing Jiang Ting’s appearance, he didn’t know what else to say, so he sighed and asked, “Who were you calling just now and where are you going?”

Fang Zhenghong stubbornly kept silent.

“I don’t know why you trust me, Fang Team. But Yan Yi’s words are right. If you’re not the poisoner and not the mole in the Jianning Municipal Bureau, then we really are grasshoppers tied to the same rope. Keeping it from us at this time, even guarding against Yan Yi, has no meaning for you.”

In the distance, a horn honked twice, and Yan Yi drove from behind the residential area.

“…,” Fang Zhenghong remained silent for a long time. Finally, he let out a breath in the gaze of the two of them and asked in response, “You don’t know why I feel that you’re innocent?”

Jiang Ting stared at him, and he heard him ask, “Do you remember ‘Monkey’? A guy who looks a bit like a monkey and is missing half of his little finger?”

From Jiang Ting’s expression, it was clear that he didn’t remember.

“‘Monkey’ was my most reliable informant. He almost got exposed during an undercover operation and narrowly escaped. Afterwards, he told me that he had been protected by a Gongzhou police officer named Jiang, otherwise he would have been dead,” Fang Zhenghong shook his head. “It was many years ago, I guess you don’t remember. It’s common for police officers to provide cover and act as the rear guard for their teammates during operations, so I didn’t think much of it at the time. But my impression and judgment of you as a person have always been buried in my heart. It wasn’t until three years ago, when you ‘died in the line of duty,’ that I began to have some doubts: How could it be such a coincidence that you were in charge of Operation 1009 and you were also the one who leaked the information leading to the failure of Operation 1009? It doesn’t make sense.”

Jiang Ting pondered for a moment and said, “Although I don’t remember the informant, but…”

“Even so, I still can’t fully trust you or immediately trust this Yan guy,” Fang Zhenghong shifted the conversation, patting the sealed bag tucked under his armpit and coldly said, “I’m going to the research institute to find an acquaintance now. Unless something unexpected happens, the crucial evidence is in this bag in my hand. If you dare to come after us, come with me. But if the evidence proves that you’re not innocent, don’t blame me for immediately calling the police.”

Jiang Ting frowned and looked at Yan Yi, who happened to be looking as well. The two silently communicated with their eyes for a few seconds.

Fang Zhenghong had already gotten into his Hyundai Elantra, slammed the car door shut, and started the engine.

“Yang Mei and Qi Sihao went to the side entrance of the residential area. Call them and tell them to come over. Let’s go to that research institute with Fang Zhenghong first,” Yan Yi made a decisive decision. “Get in the car!”

While Jiang Ting made a call to Yang Mei, he got into the car. Yan Yi fastened his seatbelt, ignited the engine. In the span of more than half a minute, Fang Zhenghong’s Elantra had already left the gate. As long as he drove about fifty to sixty meters forward along the driveway in front of the residential area and made a sharp turn, he would be on the busy main road.

“Hey, Jiang Ge?” Yang Mei asked excitedly on the other end of the phone, “I’m in disguise hiding in the bushes downstairs in the residential area. Have you blocked that guy named Fang, the old man?”

“You and Qi Sihao come to the main entrance. We’re going…”

Boom!!

A loud noise came from the front, and Jiang Ting suddenly felt as if his voice had been taken away. Yan Yi’s movements also froze.

“Jiang Ge?” Yang Mei was puzzled, “What’s happening over there?”

Pedestrians nearby stopped in their tracks and turned their heads. Everyone seemed as if they were pressed the pause button.

A silver Elantra crashed heavily into the pole at the end of the driveway without any signs of slowing down or turning. The entire front of the car was crushed in the midst of shattered glass scattered on the ground!

After several seconds had passed, murmurs and exclamations slowly started to resound, buzzing in all directions.

“Old Fang… Old Fang?”

Yan Yi got out of the car, his eyes filled with disbelief. Suddenly, he trembled violently, and he shouted at the onlookers with a sense of urgency, “Call 120! Call an ambulance!!”

Bang! The dented car door was forcefully opened. As Yan Yi witnessed the situation in the driver’s seat, he involuntarily took a cold breath, and even Jiang Ting’s face turned pale. Fang Zhenghong’s face was covered in blood, buried in the airbag, making it impossible to tell if he was dead or alive. The steering wheel and instrument panel were twisted and distorted, shards of glass and debris littered the entire car, and the hood had been completely twisted into scrap metal!

This was not the result of a collision at a speed of thirty to forty kilometers per hour. Who tampered with the braking system of this car?!

“Old Fang! Wake up! Hang on!” Yan Yi shouted angrily, “Old Fang!”

However, Fang Zhenghong was buried under the airbag and showed no response.

Several onlookers in the distance were discussing and dared not approach. The sound of an ambulance rushing over from afar. Yan Yi suddenly turned his head and met Jiang Ting’s eyes. Both of them clearly displayed astonishment and shock that couldn’t be concealed.

“… That bag,” Jiang Ting hoarsely squeezed out a voice, “Give me that bag.”

Like a lightning bolt cutting through the sky, Yan Yi suddenly reacted. He flipped out the sealed bag from under the severely damaged passenger seat, without even having time to see what the deep blue fabric inside was, and hastily handed it to Jiang Ting. “Run.”

“What about you…”

“Run!” Yan Yi pushed him and acted decisively and resolutely, lowering his voice and shouted, “Don’t tell anyone that you were at the scene of the accident. Run with the physical evidence!”