Dong Qian lived in the “Lan Wan” residential area.

It was a relatively new residential area. A few years ago, it was a damp and cramped alley, but later it became a beneficiary of urban redevelopment. Dong Qian’s family moved into a clean and bright resettlement building.

In recent years, the newly built neighborhoods were very particular. Terms like “floor heating,” “central air conditioning,” and “fresh air system” that used to sound fashionable had become standard features of residential buildings. The new generation of urban middle class began to prioritize their quality of life, demanding good locations, tranquility, services, and convenience. The old residents vaguely signed the relocation agreement and obtained a place to live on the outskirts of a “quality life,” feeling as if they had also integrated into the trend of a “quality city”… However, only after moving in did they realize that it only looked beautiful.

There was a thick buffer zone between the relocation apartments and the commercial apartments, with a sealed-off area in the middle. On one side was a bare cement floor, and on the other side was a colorful artificial landscape, dividing the buildings into different categories.

When Xiao Haiyang and his colleagues came out of Dong Qian’s house, they found a crowd of people surrounding the spot where they parked the police car.

“This car has been here since early morning,” an old man walking his dog pointed at the police car. “I saw it when I bought breakfast. I don’t know what they’re investigating for so long.”

“Don’t you know? There’s a murderer living here. I saw the address exposed online, and it’s in this complex,” a student-looking young man held up his phone to show the old man. The old man squinted, half understanding and half in awe of the storm-like flow of information.

“Hey, are those two people policemen?”

Before Xiao Haiyang had a chance to open the car door, he was nearly drowned out by the buzzing voices of the crowd.

“Officer, I heard that the person who hired a hitman to commit murder lives here. Are you here for that?”

Xiao Haiyang was momentarily stunned, then shook his head repeatedly. “No, don’t guess randomly. Excuse me, let me through.”

The curious young man holding the phone asked, “Is it true that there’s an illegitimate child?”

Before he could finish speaking, he was pulled aside by a trendy-looking woman behind him. “Don’t listen to useless gossip. You’re not allowed to bring your phone when you go online anymore. Officer, I just want to ask one thing, did the person who got hit die? Did you catch them? They live next to a murderer, you know…”

Xiao Haiyang’s hand on the car door paused, then he pretended not to hear anything, silently lowered his head and got into the car.

“Hey, why are you leaving? How much difference can it make to answer one question? This is also a matter of public safety!”

A man parked nearby complained in a low voice, “I’ve been saying we shouldn’t have bought a place so close to the relocation apartments. You never know who your neighbors are…”

Without waiting for his colleague to close the car door, Xiao Haiyang stepped on the gas pedal, as if he was being chased, and left the residential area’s parking lot. Just as he exited the community gate, he encountered a van with a certain media logo on it. His colleague noticed it quickly and patted Xiao Haiyang, “Take the side road, avoid trouble.”

Xiao Haiyang turned the steering wheel and entered the winding side road. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw several people with equipment getting off the van, but they only managed to chase after them for a few steps before realizing they couldn’t catch up. They reluctantly gave up and took a few photos of the police car passing by from a distance.

His colleague looked back nervously, confirmed that there were no unexpected incidents, and then breathed a sigh of relief. He said to Xiao Haiyang, “News spreads so fast nowadays, Haiyang, let me tell you, it’s not like before. If you encounter this kind of situation during an investigation, remember to control your words, don’t get tangled up, and run as soon as possible. Unless there’s an official announcement from above, we can’t say a single word. That’s discipline. Otherwise, be prepared to be dealt with by the higher-ups.”

Xiao Haiyang nodded somewhat awkwardly at first. After a while, he suddenly asked without rhyme or reason, “Can Dong Xiaoqing still live here?”

His colleague first looked puzzled and then came to his senses. He casually waved his hand and said, “She’ll feel uncomfortable for a while, but it’ll pass. Everyone is so busy, who has such a long memory? Don’t worry, after one or two months, no one will remember.”

Xiao Haiyang responded heavily with a word. When he drove, he was not as reckless as his usual self. He was even overly cautious. When he saw the turn signal from a distance, he gently pressed the brake, and the old police car silently came to a stop, barely causing any sway.

“But she definitely won’t forget it herself.” Xiao Haiyang suddenly spoke out.

His colleague looked at him with surprise.

“In case we never find concrete evidence in the end to prove whether Dong Qian is the murderer or innocent, this matter will never be able to pass in her heart. At first, when others questioned and doubted her, she would argue fiercely, refusing to believe that her father was a killer. But this thing is like a thorn, it keeps popping up intermittently, like Schrödinger’s box.”

The colleague, taken aback by his sudden outburst of emotions, asked with raised eyebrows, “Schrödinger? Isn’t that about a cat?”

“A box with a cat inside,” Xiao Haiyang stared at the traffic light. His glasses slid down slightly, covering his eyelids, giving him a somewhat melancholic look. “As long as you don’t open it, you won’t know if the cat is still there. This box will forever be stuck in your heart, preventing you from letting go of other things. Every day, as soon as it gets dark, you revolve around this thorn in your heart, constantly doubting… this kind of unresolved trauma can never be healed.”

In everyday conversation, people either spoke casually or communicated about practical matters. In the cultural concept of the East, discussing personal feelings with someone who isn’t very close is considered somewhat “unusual.” It can make people feel awkward, as if they are revealing too much in a shallow interaction.

The colleague hesitated, unsure of how to respond to this seemingly endless and tangential monologue. He could only force a dry laugh.

But Xiao Haiyang, like someone immersed in his own world, didn’t receive any sense of awkwardness from his companion, nor did he expect a response. He continued talking to himself, closed his mouth, and drifted away into his thoughts.

In the Lanyu Bend residential area, Dong Xiaoqing sat alone in the living room, holding the phone, while the local television station played explosive news about the Zhou family. The name “Dong” of the driver involved in the accident occasionally flashed in an inconspicuous corner. Three cups of cold tea sat on the coffee table, a sign that there had been visitors just a moment ago.

The voice on the other end of the phone was very friendly, the company’s personnel manager: “Xiao Dong, you see, there have been a lot of things happening in your family recently. Even though it’s a busy season, everyone understands your situation. I’ve also consulted with the boss, and the leaders unanimously agree that you should take a break and adjust yourself. There’s no rush for work… If you have any difficulties, you can always talk to the company. We will do our best to help you, alright?”

This was their way of politely firing her. Dong Xiaoqing understood it clearly. She didn’t want to show an ugly side, so she forced herself to suppress her trembling voice, “Okay, Manager Wang, thank you for your trouble.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble at all,” he breathed a sigh of relief. Seeing that Dong Xiaoqing was so understanding, his tone softened even more. “Given this situation, there’s not much I can do to help you, Xiao Wang has just reported to the boss, and I’ve applied for an additional quarterly salary and subsidy for you…”

Persistent knocking on the door came from outside. “Miss Dong, are you home? We’re from the Yandu Evening News and would like to ask you a few questions.”

“…We’ll give it to you all at once. Although it’s not much, at least it’s better than nothing. If you need a recommendation letter or anything in the future, feel free to come find me.”

“Miss Dong? Strange, there should be someone inside. I can hear voices… Hello, is there anyone at home?”

Dong Xiaoqing took a deep breath and hugged her head tightly.

Those noisy voices were like water, flowing back and forth, following the current, without necessarily having good intentions or ill intentions. Only those trapped in the vortex, unable to struggle or breathe, would truly understand the taste of a “disaster from heaven.”

But despite the disaster, he couldn’t blame any of those drops of water.

Who should she reason with?

Throughout history, no one has ever reached a clear conclusion.

Dong Xiaoqing didn’t know how she managed to deal with the company’s phone call. She had become an automaton, devoid of emotions. It took her a while to regain some semblance of consciousness.

The people outside finally left, and she forcibly twisted off the phone case. The sensational news on TV had ended at some point, and now a regular variety show was playing.

She sat there blankly, curled up into a ball, her lifeless gaze fixed on the slip of paper under the teacup, which had a phone number written on it. It was left by the bespectacled police officer who instructed her to contact him if she remembered any clues or encountered any difficulties.

“Hypocrites,” Dong Xiaoqing thought, expressionless.

At that moment, the annoying doorbell rang again.

Dong Xiaoqing jolted, feeling an inexplicable anger surge within her. She stood up abruptly, picked up the glass on the table, and was about to throw it at the front door. The word “get lost” was already stuck in her throat.

“Delivery… Is there anyone at home?”

Dong Xiaoqing was startled. The water glass slipped from her fingertips and landed on the sofa, wetting the cushion. The person at the door tried to knock and muttered, “No one’s here.” Then came a creak, and the delivery person, as usual, stuffed the package into the small compartment of the electrical well in the corridor and hurriedly left.

Dong Xiaoqing hastily pressed some paper towels onto the wet sofa cushion. After hesitating for a moment, she carefully peered outside through the peephole to make sure no one was there. Then she quickly opened the door just a crack, as if being a thief, and retrieved the package.

The thing inside was not heavy and was packaged carefully. She didn’t remember ordering anything, so who would be delivering a package at this time? Dong Xiaoqing curiously looked at the delivery slip and suddenly froze–

It was an address from the freight company where Dong Qian used to work. Both the sender and recipient were Dong Qian.

The cause of Zhou Junmao’s death remained a mystery. As a suspect, the police had searched both his workplace and home, but they had overlooked this “China Slow Delivery” mail that would take two to three days even within the same city.

Dong Xiaoqing eagerly tore open the package with her bare hands. The first thing that fell out was a black-and-white portrait of a woman, the same photo that hung in her living room, depicting her mother who had passed away during her childhood. Behind it were heart-wrenching pictures of the accident scene and the death certificate issued by the hospital after failed resuscitation efforts.

Attached to the back of the death certificate was a newspaper clipping—a report on the car accident in which Dong Xiaoqing’s mother had died.

Dong Xiaoqing initially thought it was a memento cherished by her father and was about to skip it. However, her gaze inadvertently caught a few sentences on the old newspaper. Suddenly, she felt as if a bucket of cold water had been poured over her head, instantly snapping her out of her dazed state. The protagonist of that article turned out to be not the woman who died innocently in the car accident, but a prestigious businessman at the time.

The businessman was driving on the road when suddenly he was rear-ended by a large truck. His car lost control and swerved into the adjacent lane, causing a chain collision that involved another passing truck. The car’s owner and the responsible driver both died on the spot. Unfortunately, the couple in the passing vehicle happened to be Dong Qian and his wife. Both were taken to the hospital for treatment, and while Dong Qian’s wife suffered severe injuries, she tragically did not survive.

Dong Xiaoqing raised her hand and eagerly emptied the contents of the package. Inside were incomprehensible road maps, some oil-stained hand-drawn sketches, copies of enormous bills of unknown purpose, several close-up shots of license plates, and a stack of personal information about strangers.

Among them was a document that suddenly caught her attention—it was Zhou Junmao!

The back of Zhou Junmao’s biography included a photo of the Bentley he was sitting in during the car accident.

Dong Xiaoqing’s heart thumped rapidly, and her hands couldn’t help but tremble. Underneath a pile of documents, she saw an envelope with the crooked and somewhat childish handwriting of Dong Qian that read, “Xiao Qing!”

Several days had passed since the kidnapping case involving Zhou Huaijin, yet the heat surrounding it had not died down. Photos and news reports of Zhou Huaijin’s early participation in business activities had all been dug up. Even the mysterious founder of the Zhou family, who had disappeared from public view for decades, was once again being mentioned.

“This person’s Chinese name is ‘Zhou Yahou’… Wow, he looks so handsome,” Lang Qiao paced around the office. “He’s a Chinese-American mix, with more Chinese heritage. His wife is also Chinese, a second-generation immigrant from a wealthy family. He dropped out of a prestigious school to start his own business—Zhou Junmao was completely under his command back then, not to mention Zheng Kaifeng. When Zhou Yahou formed his own company, Zheng Kaifeng had just sneaked out of the country, still a little thug on the run.”

Tao Ran looked up in surprise and asked, “Zheng Kaifeng sneaked out of the country?”

“He ran away when he was barely a teenager,” Lang Qiao said. “Spent a few years under the control of snakeheads, and then somehow got involved with Zhou Junmao, which eventually led to him obtaining legal status. Looking at his past and present, this turn of fate… is hard to say.”

Someone nearby protested, “Qiao Qiao, stop pacing around. You’re making me dizzy.”

“I’m starving, Comrade Ge,” Lang Qiao wailed. “The zookeeper is already ten minutes late. My stomach is digesting itself.”

As soon as she finished speaking, the aroma of pancakes drifted into the hallway. Lang Qiao bounded to the door in two steps, as if a citizen of an occupied area seeing the arrival of the liberating army. She affectionately called out, “Boss!”

Luo Wenzhou stepped aside, saying, “Be more stable.”

“Hungry children don’t need stability,” Lang Qiao anxiously reached out to grab what he was holding. “Hey, why did you buy so many things today?”

Luo Wenzhou remained silent, thinking, “Who knows what that person won’t eat.”

It was a Friday, the day when Fei Du was supposed to report to the bureau. Luo Wenzhou had bought breakfast as usual, but then he remembered and bought something else, causing him to be a little late.

He casually strolled into the office and immediately noticed Fei Du’s empty desk. He put on a serious face and said, “Didn’t I emphasize discipline? What’s going on now? Tao Ran, give him a call. When is he coming? Where is he fooling around?”

Tao Ran: “…”

Luo Wenzhou belatedly realized that everyone’s expressions were extremely strange. “Why is everyone looking at me?”

Lang Qiao, with a suggestive look, pointed to the coat hanging on Fei Du’s seat and intentionally lowered her voice so that everyone could hear, “He arrived half an hour ago and went to Director Lu’s office.”

Luo Wenzhou: “…”

Tao Ran sluggishly added, “Oh, right. Director Lu just called the office looking for you. I answered, and he gave me a good scolding, asking if ‘Luo Wenzhou’s free-spiritedness will ever improve’.”

Luo Wenzhou: “…”

The entire criminal investigation team collectively shushed Luo Wenzhou, who had provided them with meals.