The guests had all left, and Tao Ran was probably already fast asleep in another dimension.

In the well-lit living room, a faint smell of wine lingered, sweet and sticky. Fei Du turned off the air conditioning, opened the windows, and made a cup of freshly brewed espresso with the new coffee machine. The rich aroma wafted from the corner of the table.

Luo Wen Zhou was caught off guard by the warm summer breeze that blew over his head. He paused for a moment, then shook off the water droplets from his hand and pressed his forehead with his cold palm, sighing helplessly, “Young man, could you be a bit more tactful? The red scarf taught us to do good without leaving a trace. By revealing it like this, where’s the aesthetic sense, hm?”

Fei Du didn’t respond. He seemed frozen, and his “pretentious” demeanor was almost indistinguishable from reality.

Luo Wen Zhou glanced at him and suddenly realized that he wasn’t the only one feeling awkward. Given Fei Du’s impeccable memory, he must still remember the scene where Luo Wen Zhou was playing games on an old PSP at the police station, flaunting it while making sarcastic remarks.

Luo Wen Zhou sincerely and empathetically put himself in Fei Du’s shoes and imagined the scene. It made his hair stand on end with a peculiar satisfaction.

With that in mind, a “filter” of bristling hair involuntarily appeared in his gaze. Looking at Fei Du, he couldn’t help but feel that everything from his tightly pursed lips, his fingers uncomfortably resting at his side, to the evasive gaze behind his glasses seemed incredibly uneasy.

When he himself felt uneasy, he tended to exaggerate and ramble on. But if he could see that the other person was equally uncomfortable, then the symptoms would instantly vanish.

Luo Wen Zhou suddenly smiled and slowly put his hands in his pockets.

He lowered his head, took a cigarette, and as his eyelids drooped and lifted again, he glanced up at Fei Du from under them. With his mouth occupied, the words that came out had a nasal tone, “What’s up? Did you finally realize that the ‘Uncle Dongbin’ you’ve been biting for so many years is actually a good person? Don’t worry, darling, there’s no need to be so nervous. We, as good Samaritans, don’t casually offer ourselves to others.”

Fei Du’s facial features seemed like a mask, impenetrable as if made of copper and iron. Especially when he was mentally tense, he had almost perfect control over his micro-expressions and body language, never revealing the slightest hint of emotion.

Compared to him, the likes of Zhao Haochang, who was full of lies, could be called “transparent.”

Fei Du didn’t respond to Luo Wen Zhou’s half-joking remark. He pondered for a moment, picked up the freshly ground coffee cup, where a thin layer of oil floated on the surface, and with a slight movement, small ripples formed as he swirled it. Without adding any sugar, he drank down more than half of it as if he had lost his sense of taste, silently.

Fei Du had just consumed a few glasses of alcohol and hadn’t eaten much, so he was essentially on an empty stomach. The unhealthy combination of alcohol and high-concentration coffee immediately acted as a “blood pressure booster,” causing his heart to forcefully pump a large amount of blood into his veins. The sudden increase in irregular and intensified heartbeats made him uncomfortable, and cold sweat formed in his palms.

Luo Wen Zhou frowned. “Don’t drink that…”

Fei Du pressed his warm porcelain cup against his palm, lifted his chin with a slight twitch at the corner of his mouth, and interrupted him with a half-smile, half-forced smile, “Indeed, for someone like me, who is always ready to hire a hitman and kill his own father, maintaining the current state is already rare, and Luo Team’s care over the years is indispensable.”

Luo Wen Zhou sensed a certain inexplicable tension in his words. Before he could figure out the taste, Fei Du finished the remaining coffee in one gulp. Perhaps it was too bitter, as he frowned, and there was a sharp curve between his raised chin and neck.

Then he placed the cup down, nodded, and turned to leave. “Then I’ll go back first. Let Tao Ran know for me.”

“Hey,” Luo Wen Zhou instinctively reminded him, “You’ve just finished drinking, don’t drive.”

Fei Du ignored him.

Luo Wen Zhou said, “Did you hear me?”

Fei Du nonchalantly reached for the door handle as if he hadn’t heard.

Since talking wasn’t effective, Luo Wen Zhou had to take action. He grabbed Fei Du’s arm from behind, skillfully pulled and twisted it backward, using the same technique he would use to apprehend a suspect, and forcibly escorted Fei Du to a recliner three steps away. He sat him down and said, “Sit here and wait. I’ll call a designated driver for you.”

It was only at this moment that Fei Du snapped back to reality. He struggled free from Luo Wen Zhou’s grip and spoke a bit faster, “Luo Team, could you evolve a bit more towards being a civilized person from your late Homo sapiens state?”

Luo Wen Zhou ignored him. The fingers that had been resting on the back of Fei Du’s neck moved slightly and landed on his carotid artery. “You’re feeling uncomfortable, aren’t you? I did remember seeing somewhere that coffee and alcohol shouldn’t be mixed.”

Fei Du said nothing.

He was “shocked” by Luo Wen Zhou’s belated remark, causing his ears to ache.

Luo Wen Zhou looked at him. “I didn’t think that much—neither treating you badly nor treating you well would work. You’re even more difficult to please than Empress Dowager Cixi.”

Fei Du: “…Forgive me, I didn’t know your real surname is Li.”

Luo Wen Zhou flicked his finger against his neck and went out to call a designated driver.

The host, Tao Ran, was completely oblivious to the stormy argument that had just taken place. He had been knocked down by a few glasses of red wine and had lain on the ground until the evening sun saturated the surface before he climbed up with a dry mouth.

The guests had unsurprisingly left, and before leaving, they had tidied up the messy house for him.

In his new home, Tao Ran washed his face and saw two notes posted on the refrigerator. One was left by Luo Wen Zhou, informing him that the unfinished dishes were in the fridge and he could heat them up himself. The other note, left by Fei Du, was longer. Tao Ran rubbed his eyes for a while before finally being able to read what was written.

Fei Du mentioned that when he took Chencheng out to buy books, he had a feeling of being followed. He wasn’t sure if it was targeted at Chencheng or if he was being overly sensitive. However, just to be safe, he asked Tao Ran to visit the parents of Chencheng, who lived in the same unit “1101,” in the evening and remind them to pay attention to the safety of their children during the summer break. He also reminded Tao Ran to bring something and expressed gratitude to the beautiful lady for making him “shine.”

He had even found out the house number.

Tao Ran couldn’t help but laugh.

Then, his smile gradually froze as he reread the few sentences Fei Du used to describe the suspected tracker. Subconsciously, he looked out through the window. The old residential area was lush with abundant vegetation. Thick pine and cypress trees stood in groups. Looking down from above, there was nothing unusual.

Peaceful and serene.

Tao Ran walked to the small cabinet and opened the notebook of the former owner, the old detective. There was an old one-inch photo on the front page, a picture of the previous owner when he was young. With a crew cut and a square face, he faced the camera without a smile. Next to the photo, his name was written in a lively and vigorous manner—Yang Zhengfeng.

On the pages about the “Lianhua Mountain Serial Child Kidnapping Case,” Yang Laoyong circled it in red. Tao Ran knew that this meant the case was unresolved in his mentor’s mind. The pages recorded Yang’s illegal surveillance and eavesdropping on Wu Guangchuan. The time span lasted for half a month, and almost every day was marked as “no abnormalities.”

In between were a few lines: “Verified by Wu Guangchuan’s colleagues, during the enrollment period at Lianhua Mountain, this person was hospitalized for two days due to a severe cold, coinciding with the time when the victim Guo Fei disappeared. The relevant information has been confirmed with the hospital, casting doubt on Wu Guangchuan’s time of committing the crime.”

Tao Ran poured himself a glass of warm water and calmly sorted out his scattered thoughts. It was said that Wu Guangchuan was over 1.8 meters tall, a tall man. For young girls, they would have to look up to see his face. Children in the early stages of puberty were already developing gender awareness and becoming sensitive. It would likely require repeated or prolonged contact for a stranger adult male, even with a teacher’s identity, to gain the trust of a girl.

Did hospitalized Wu Guangchuan have the opportunity and time?

Lost in thought, Tao Ran’s fingers loosened, and the notebook closed upside down, revealing a small note tucked in the back. It was written in his own handwriting, with a radio frequency channel followed by the label “Midnight, Zero Degrees Reading.”

Yang Zhengfeng died three years ago at the hands of a fugitive.

As he grew older and climbed the ranks, he had already moved from front-line detective to a managerial position several years ago. Luo Wen Zhou had heard a rumor that he was about to be promoted to deputy bureau chief. They had been eagerly looking forward to giving that old man a hard time.

The incident didn’t even happen during his working hours—Yang Zhengfeng had taken two weeks of leave to send his child to college out of town. After seeing his child off, he planned to spend his last day of leave enjoying being a family cook. Early in the morning, he went to the market and passed through an underground passage, where he saw a homeless man with a nervous expression. No matter who looked at him, the homeless man would fiercely glare back. Yang Zhengfeng sensitively noticed that some of the man’s small movements resembled the preparatory actions before an attack. He paid attention but recognized that the homeless man was actually a Class A wanted criminal, who had gone insane and stabbed a neighboring family of four before going on the run.

The suspect’s mental state was obviously unstable, and Yang Zhengfeng didn’t dare to act rashly. He secretly contacted his colleagues, but just as they were inching closer, an old lady happened to be walking her dog. The small dog might have sensed the danger and barked incessantly at the man. It triggered the fugitive, who let out a loud shout and pulled out a knife from somewhere, pouncing on the old woman. With no other choice, Yang Zhengfeng had to intervene—

Yang Zhengfeng was stabbed more than ten times by the insane killer.

That day happened to be Tao Ran’s shift, and he arrived at the scene first. He barely made it in time to see the last glimpse of the old man.

But strangely, Yang Zhengfeng’s last words were neither asking if the criminal had been caught nor entrusting his wife and children. He held Tao Ran’s hand and repeatedly repeated a sentence: “FM… 88.6… twelve-fifty… 88.6…”

The program on FM 88.6 at twelve-fifty was “Zero Degrees Reading.” Later, the program was discontinued and became a very niche mobile app that played audiobooks in a lukewarm manner. The content was extremely dull and boring. Fei Du happened to have heard it from him once and jokingly referred to it as a hypnotic device.

When on duty with reversed day and night, Tao Ran occasionally experienced some sleep disturbances. At that time, he would listen to this peculiar audiobook. He had always suspected that he had misunderstood his master’s last words until he happened to hear the ID “Reciter” one time.

Tao Ran opened his nearly dead phone, opened the “Zero Degrees Reading” app, and flipped to the analysis of “The Red and the Black” that he had saved. The author was none other than “Reciter.”

The first sentence of the article read: “‘Then, with whom do I dine?’—this question is the soul-stirring point of the character.”

Coincidentally, the murderer and disposer of the “520” killing and body-dumping case, Zhao Haochang, had once connected with the Zhang family’s connections. He had seized an excellent opportunity by replacing a colleague and successfully promoted to a second-level partner. To commemorate this event, he stole a pen belonging to Fei Du, the head of the project cooperation company, and left a commemorative label with the words “With whom do I dine?”

This was something that couldn’t be explained to anyone. If he were to say it, people would only think he had spent too much time immersed in the case, to the point of being mentally exhausted, seeing things with a sense of déjà vu. However, the problem was that Tao Ran felt this familiar feeling wasn’t the first time, and it was the same ID every time.

Did his master hold his hand at the end and really talk about a boring reading program?

Could it be that he had misheard it at the time, and he had been self-suggesting “there’s something wrong with this program” to the point where he became overly suspicious, scrutinizing every coincidence that arose?

Having been a detective for over seven years, Tao Ran knew that this kind of situation was quite common. When a person starts suspecting everything, memory can deceive them—how many witnesses directly encounter violent crimes but can’t clearly describe whether the suspect was male or female, tall or short?

Over the years, he had flipped through the old detective’s notebook countless times, trying to find any clues, to understand what his master’s true last words were. However, he had memorized everything in the notebook, but he still hadn’t found any trace other than that program.

Tao Ran took a deep breath, shook his head self-deprecatingly, and felt that he might need to talk to the psychological counselor at the bureau.

Just then, an update symbol appeared in the upper right corner of the mobile app. Tao Ran unintentionally glanced down and his pupils contracted. The updated title was: “Oh, wandering soul, have you found your lost pearl of the night?—Rereading ‘Lolita,’ Contributor: Reciter.”

Author’s note: FM 88.6 may indeed exist as a channel, but in this story, it is a fictional setting. Please do not associate it with reality.