The director of the Technical Investigation Department, Huang Xingren, was middle-aged with a shiny bald head. As he hurriedly walked, he half-turned his body and spoke rapidly, as if he was firing a machine gun: “I restored the data until 11 o’clock last night and came to work at 4 o’clock this morning. I need to finish quickly so I can attend the parent-teacher meeting of my son… Hey! The teacher treats me like a grandson every time. If I fail again this time, you won’t see me anymore. I’ll risk my life. I’ll beat him to death!”

Yan Yin comforted him, “It’s alright. After all, you can still be a police officer, can’t you?”

Huang Xing was taken aback. His gaze fell on Yan Yin, and he instinctively said, “That won’t do!”

Yan Yin: “…”

“Where did we leave off?” Huang Xing coughed casually. “Oh, right, data recovery.”

Yan Yin: “…………”

“We have recovered Feng Yuguang’s photo album, contact list, recent contacts, and even his WeChat account data. The only thing we couldn’t retrieve temporarily is the WeChat chat records. Here, the call records are here. The last call Feng Yuguang received was from an unregistered mobile phone with a non-real-name SIM card. We can’t triangulate the location, and we can’t confirm the owner either.”

Yan Yin pointed to the second line on the list. “What about this one?”

This was a outgoing call that was only three minutes away from the mysterious incoming call. The duration of the call was forty-eight seconds.

Forty-eight seconds, not too long, not too short. If it was about setting up a meeting location, it seemed too verbose. If it was about chatting on other topics, the time wouldn’t be enough.

“Well,” Huang Xing said, “The owner is named Ding Dang. She is the daughter of the supervising teacher at the company where Feng Yuguang was interning. She is a twenty-one-year-old art school student. Feng Yuguang had been in frequent contact with her in the past month. To be honest, I suspect that these two kids were already romantically involved.”

Yan Yin smiled faintly.

Huang Xing asked suspiciously, “What are you laughing at?”

“I’m laughing because you guessed wrong. Feng Yuguang and this girl couldn’t possibly be in a romantic relationship.” Yan Yin shook the evidence bag containing the phone. “Wanna bet?”

“… " Huang Xing cautiously said, “I advise you to take a look at the call records first.”

“No need to look, I already know.”

“On what basis do you know?”

Yan Yin smiled and didn’t answer. “Wanna bet?”

Huang Xing became annoyed. He said, “Aren’t you just being difficult?”

“What do you mean difficult? My reasonable speculation is based on facts that you are not fully aware of…”

A figure hurriedly rushed upstairs and almost collided head-on with Yan Yin. “Ah!”

Yan Yin’s eyes were sharp and quick. At the critical moment, he dodged the white liquid that was splashed toward his face, and he also saved his black T-shirt that he bought for 200 yuan during the Double Eleven sale last year. He scolded, “What are you doing? Why are you so flustered!”

Han Xiaomei, holding soy milk in one hand and steamed buns in the other, looked like a startled deer. “Ah, Captain Yan! You, you, you, I, I, I…”

Huang Xing couldn’t bear to watch and held his forehead.

“Are you here to work or have a picnic?!” Yan Yin was extremely angry. “Where’s Lao Gao? Gao Panqing? I asked you to bring this girl, and you let her go to eat steamed buns in the morning? Bring the field team’s Lao Gao to me!”

“It’s not Lao Gao, it’s not!” Han Xiaomei hurriedly stopped him. “It’s your friend, Captain Yan. I went to your office just now, and he told me to go, go, go buy something to eat—”

Yan Yin: “…”

Yan Yin’s face changed rapidly, as if an erupting volcano was about to explode. Suddenly, he succumbed to the supernatural power of nature named “Jiang Ting.”

“A friend?” Huang Xing wondered.

“… Oh, I called him as a witness at the crime scene, but I got too busy and forgot about him.” Yan Yin snatched the steamed buns and soy milk from the dejected Han Xiaomei, thought for a moment, and then handed them back. He threw the victim’s phone from the evidence bag to Huang Xing and said, “Check the most frequent contacts after the victim arrived in Jianning, including this person named Ding Dang. Bring them in for questioning one by one. Have Lao Gao prepare a transcript for me later.” Then he snatched the steamed buns and soy milk again, looked up and down at Han Xiaomei, and angrily reprimanded, “Why aren’t you wearing your police uniform properly? Tuck your shirt into your pants!”

Han Xiaomei: “…………”

Yan Yin, holding the steamed buns, left in long strides.

“Don’t mind those two idiots.” Huang Xing patted the almost-crying Han Xiaomei and gestured with his mouth in the direction Yan Yin had left. “A man in his thirties who can’t find a wife, there must be a reason.”

Yan Yin sat on the edge of the desk and waved the steaming plastic bag in front of Jiang Ting. Just as Jiang Ting was about to reach out to take it, Yan Yin quickly pulled it back, and with a loud “thud,” he slammed the case analysis report on the table and said, “Here, start working.”

Jiang Ting’s hand paused in mid-air, and then he calmly retracted it. “I won’t look.”

Yan Yin said, “Right now, your life and fortune are in my hands. I advise you to obey me…”

Jiang Ting raised his head, his face pale as snow. “I won’t look.”

Yan Yin was shocked by his dark eyes and colorless face. He stood still for a while, quickly inserted a straw into the soy milk cup, tore off the paper beneath the steamed bun, and presented it to him with both hands.

Jiang Ting silently stared at him for a few seconds, then leaned forward and took a sip of soy milk from his hand. With an expression of forgiveness, he accepted the breakfast.

Yan Yin acknowledged his fault, “You should have told me about your low blood sugar. Even on the way here, you didn’t ask me to stop and buy something to eat. Whose fault is it? Oh, I have half a pack of cookies here. Look, it’s not like I intentionally starved you…”

“Fan Zhengyuan using drugs?”

While taking a bite of the steamed bun, Jiang Ting looked through the case analysis report and paused on the pages with the autopsy results.

“Nasal inhalation and intravenous injection, a seasoned user. So?”

Jiang Ting pointed to a line of explanation in the analysis report, “Then how did you come to the conclusion that the compound in his pocket was for his own use?”

His question was exactly the same as what Yan Yin had raised during the case analysis meeting earlier.

Yan Yin said with interest, “Why couldn’t it be for his own use?”

“Intravenous injections are usually done with powdered diacetylmorphine, commonly known as ‘No. 4.’ The stimulation it gives to the nerve cells to release dopamine is remarkable. As time goes by after the injection, the number of dopamine receptors in the brain decreases rapidly. So, in order to maintain the same level of stimulation, all heavy drug addicts will constantly increase their dosage. The compound in Feng Yuguang’s body belongs to a lightweight inducement for beginners, with minimal neural stimulation compared to what Fan Zhengyuan would need. It’s unlikely that he used it himself.”

Yan Yin looked Jiang Ting up and down, his gaze slightly flickering, then he smiled strangely, “How do you know? Maybe he just found these pills convenient, cheap, and ate them as snacks.”

“Not possible.” Jiang Ting casually flipped through the report and said, “No. 4 is expensive to sell, but it’s just to fool the outsiders. In reality, who knows how much glucose and talcum powder is mixed into the street drugs. The price may not be higher than that of the compound in Feng Yuguang’s possession. Besides, mixing other substances with morphine when the effect hasn’t worn off yet will make people very uncomfortable. Fan Zhengyuan wouldn’t have done that.”

In the office, only the sound of him flipping through the autopsy report could be heard, with no other noise.

“… You seem to have a good understanding of the drug trade,” after a while, Yan Yin suddenly said.

His words were obviously off, and Jiang Ting finally sensed something. He lifted his eyelids and met Yan Yin’s sharp gaze.

“What are you looking at?” Jiang Ting countered, “I’ve been working in drug enforcement for over ten years. Why wouldn’t I understand?”

Yan Yin was about to say something when his phone rang.

“Hello, Lao Qin. Yeah, go ahead… Right, you found it?”

Yan Yin jumped off the desk after hearing whatever Qin Chuan said on the other end of the call. He quickly grabbed his car keys and picked up his coat, “Good, you guys go search Fan’s residence. Send me the other address, I’ll go there personally.”

Jiang Ting calmly ate his steamed bun, but unexpectedly, Yan Yin snatched the plastic bag from him and said, “Don’t eat anymore, hurry up and come with me. We’ll eat in the car on the way.”

Jiang Ting frowned, “What are you doing?”

“The Anti-Drug Brigade has found another hiding place of Fan Zhengyuan, apart from his home. They’re arranging for an informant to take us there.” Yan Yin glanced at the steamed buns in the plastic bag and disdainfully pursed his lips, “Tsk, it’s filled with custard. Your appetite is quite picky, could you be any more delicate?”

He turned around, holding the steamed buns, but suddenly stopped, as Jiang Ting grabbed his sleeve. “Wait a moment.”

“What’s the matter?”

Jiang Ting sat motionless in the armchair, while Yan Yin stood, and he saw Yan Yin shake the case analysis report in his hand and said, “Your investigation direction is wrong.”

Everything was like a replay of the debate in the meeting room three hours ago, only this time, Yan Yin’s role was reversed, and Jiang Ting became the one arguing based on facts.

Yan Yin laughed inwardly but didn’t show it on the surface. He coldly asked, “What’s wrong with it?”

“The suspicion of Fan Zhengyuan’s drug involvement by the Criminal Investigation Brigade is based on the discovery of drug residues on his body and his alleged involvement in armed robbery. But you and I know that Fan Zhengyuan has nothing to do with armed robbery. His only purpose in appearing was to take my life, but he was intercepted halfway.”

“So what?” Yan Yin deliberately asked.

“The person who killed Fan Zhengyuan can take away what he had and leave something behind. How do you know that the drug residue in his pocket isn’t a means for the killer to mislead the police?”

Yan Yin stood with his arms crossed, seemingly pondering for a moment, and lazily said, “No, your speculation hardly has any factual basis. Besides, wouldn’t it be beneficial for the police to investigate Fan Zhengyuan? Does it serve any purpose for the killer?”

Wei, the deputy director, asked this question, which was the crucial point that Yan Yin got stuck on during the case analysis meeting. He wanted to know how Jiang Ting would answer.

“Yes,” Jiang Ting said, “To buy time.”

Yan Yin was stunned.

“I suggest you assign someone to follow up on the lead regarding Fan Zhengyuan, and at the same time, intensify efforts to re-examine Hu Weisheng. Conduct a fresh investigation into his residence, bank accounts, and correspondence,” Jiang Ting said. “The fact that the killer didn’t hesitate to commit murder under your watch as the deputy brigade leader indicates that the situation he needs to cover up has reached a critical level. If the police are led astray and the investigation slows down, the death of Feng Yuguan may end up with an unclear and unsatisfactory outcome, just like the Gongzhou case years ago.”

The two men locked eyes for a moment, and Yan Yin squinted, “Did you encounter a similar situation during your previous investigations?”

However, Jiang Ting remained indifferent under his scrutiny. He got up and took the plastic bag containing the steamed buns from Yan Yin’s hand and threw it into the trash.

“It’s gone cold,” he said.

· The old Mechanical Factory in Jianning City was once a shining pearl in the southwestern region. In the 1970s, a large and bustling industrial zone was established in the eastern suburbs, with roaring production lines and independent infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, and post offices. When workers retired, their children took over, and state-owned enterprises provided them with food stamps, oil coupons, meat coupons, and even bicycle and refrigerator tickets during holidays. The iron rice bowl was passed down from generation to generation, and marrying into a worker’s family in the eastern suburbs became a source of pride for many girls in Jianning.

The glory gradually declined by the late 1980s and suffered further in the 1990s with waves of layoffs. The state-owned factories went into decline, with a continuous decline in their fortunes.

The once prosperous residential areas now stood empty, with remnants and broken walls under the setting sun. Huge characters spelling “demolish” were everywhere. The small shops made of plastic sheds displayed faded instant noodle advertisements, while a few dirty children played by the ditch, occasionally emitting shrill screams with strong local accents.

Even if you drove a Ferrari here, it would feel like riding a bumper car. Yan Yin finally gave up and pulled the handbrake, saying, “No more. If we keep going, we’ll be performing acrobatics. Jiang, could you do me a favor and walk a few steps?”

The dormitories in the industrial zone were old-style multi-story buildings, and now, they were either mostly vacant or had five or six units empty. Although there was still lingering sunlight outside, the corridors were dark. As you walked deeper, the accumulated dampness and mildew rushed into every crevice. Jiang Ting shivered suddenly, “Ah-choo!”

Yan Yin, using the light from his phone, led the way, saying, “You’re too delicate, aren’t you?”

Jiang Ting didn’t reply.

Yan Yin squeezed past the clutter piled up at the corner of the corridor, carefully treading on the precarious steps. Finally, he climbed to the top floor, the sixth floor. Clothes and bedding hung outside the walkway facing the courtyard, and every door on the inner side of the corridor was tightly shut. As they walked in, the fourth door, an old, yellow wooden door, had a police seal on it.

With his arms crossed, Jiang Ting carefully observed the surroundings, then suddenly, Yan Yin handed him a military green jacket, “Hmm.”

“No need,” Jiang Ting didn’t even make a gesture to take it, “I can’t afford to ruin it.”

Yan Yin, wearing only a black short-sleeved T-shirt, his well-built shoulder muscles particularly prominent, couldn’t help but put the jacket over Jiang Ting’s head, “Come on, if you catch a cold and get sick, then I…”

Jiang Ting finally told the truth, “When was the last time you did laundry?”

Yan Yin: “…”

The two stared at each other, and after a moment, Yan Yin unlocked the door with a click of the key, saying coldly, “Just wear it honestly, don’t waste time with so much nonsense.”

The room was damp and dim. When Yan Yin covered his nose and went to turn on the light, he found that the electricity had been cut off. Helpless, he had to continue using his phone for illumination. The floor was littered with debris and garbage, thoroughly inspected twice by the investigators. The entire shabby residence was a sight to behold.

Jiang Ting cautiously stepped into the room and stood by the low wooden bed, frowning slightly as he observed the surroundings.

“The undercover team has searched here twice. With Lao Gao’s methods, every mouse in this house has been registered by name. What’s the matter? Jiang, have you never seen the living conditions of the lower class? Any thoughts?” Yan Yin, not mincing words, nudged him with his elbow.

Jiang Ting took Yan Yin’s phone, half-squatting on the floor, and used the light to examine every nook and cranny beneath the bed, along the floor gaps, and against the walls. He pondered for a while.

Yan Yin taunted, “Are you going to answer the question?”

“No thoughts,” Jiang Ting replied calmly. “I grew up in these lower-class living conditions.”

Yan Yin was taken aback.

Jiang Ting stood up and walked to the table. Several electric kettles were lined up side by side, and the debris piled up on a plastic tray so worn out that its color couldn’t be discerned. Leftover instant noodles and a kettle used for “ice skating” were placed close to each other, with a thick layer of white mold forming on the oily broth.

Jiang Ting stood there, as if encountering an unsolvable problem. The elegant and distinctive curve of his slender and dark eyebrows extended from his forehead to his nose, lips, and even the contour of his neck, creating an elegant and unique profile in the light and shadow.

He suddenly pulled out a chair and sat down. Yan Yin couldn’t stop him in time, and he saw him sitting straight in front of the bowl of instant noodles that had already turned moldy and smelled bad, as if reaching out to grab the chopsticks.

“Hey, you…”

Jiang Ting raised his hand, and Yan Yin’s voice abruptly stopped.

Then, Jiang Ting looked up and thoughtfully glanced across, his gaze naturally falling on the broken window at the other end of the room, barely covered with newspapers.

Yan Yin didn’t know what he was looking at, so he could only stare at him without blinking. Jiang Ting suddenly got up and walked towards the window, carefully searching the oil-stained window sill and wooden frame in the light. He then reached out and forcefully pushed the deformed wooden window panel.

Bang!

The window was pushed open, and the evening breeze rushed in, dispersing the nauseating smell in the room to some extent.

“Come here,” Jiang Ting pointed to the exterior window ledge, his voice calm and unruffled, saying, “The work of your undercover team is quite rough.”