The Plough – Chapter 10

So, let's change our way of thinking?
One paper cost on average three cents, to most people this was not expensive.

Those who were illiterate could also go to the cafe to listen to people read it out loud. One pot of tea could last most of the afternoon, killing two birds with one stone.
《Huangpu Xin Pao》was a tabloid which had a small audience. It needed to make a small profit by rapid turnover, that’s why it only cost two cents. Plus this way, being the first to report the explosive news, today would definitely be a sell-out.

In the wake of this newspaper’s distributon, it wouldn’t be long until the news of Du Yunning’s death would have reached every corner of Shanghai.
And the news that Ling Shu was the prime suspect would also be difficult to suppress. Everyone will become a judge. Newspapers, magazines, hoards of people – all public opinion would point the finger at him which would increase pressure on the police who must solve the case.

Under pressure, there was also the so-called proof, if Ling Shu wanted to prove his innocence, it would be even more difficult.

Throughout history, a life for a life, this has always been the law.

“Mr Yue, your capabilities are limited. You couldn’t even keep this out of the news. I’m suspicious about whether all that stuff you fed my jie about your success over the years is true or not!”

Ling Shu said coldly, whilst fishing out five cents from his pocket and putting it on top of the newspaper. He folded up the newspaper and threw it into the embrace of a nearby beggar.

“There is nowhere in this world where wind doesn’t eventually penetrate the wall.” Yue Dingtang said unperturbed, “from the moment the case was linked to you, you must have expected this result. Although the Yuan family have been confined to the manor, they still need to eat and drink everyday. So contact with the outside world is inevitable. Plus there are so many police officers, anyone could have leaked the news to the press to earn some money under the table, it’s not unheard of.”

Ling Shu sighed out loud, he’d become the scapegoat through no fault of his own.

If he didn’t find the real murderer, this case would be like an invisible noose around his neck, tightening at any point and killing him.

The person who helped Du Yunning write the list of assets could have had an ambiguous relationship with her and could even have been the one urging her to elope and finally killing her. It was the same as a non-existent departed ghost, hovering around the whole time but it was impossible to find even a footprint of this person.

Even if it wasn’t for the fact that Ling Shu had seen with his own eyes this list of assets, he would have also been suspicious of the existence of this person.

Ling Shu felt that his idea of following Du Yunning’s way of thinking to find clues was not wrong. But this is like being led by the nose. The opponent hiding in the shadows knew their next move, and could easily track exactly where he would be and could take a pre-emptive strike.

So, let’s change our way of thinking?

If even personal maid of the Yuan family has never seen this person —

Then how did Du Yunning meet this person without the Yuan family knowing at all?

Suddenly Ling Shu had a lightbulb moment!

“New Moon Cafe?!”

“Did Du Yunning ask to meet you at the same place each time?”

Yue Dingtang and him almost spoke out at the same time.

The two people did not say the same words but their way of thinking was the same.

They decided to go over there.

Yue Dingtang: “It was the New Moon cafe every time?”

Ling Shu: “That’s correct, we met three times and each time it was there.”

Yue Dingtang: “Okay, then did you see her interacting with anyone in particular there?”
Ling Shu thought about it for a moment and then shook his head and said: “I don’t think so,she seemed to know the owner of the cafe. The second time we went there, she even introduced me to the owner who was washing cups at the time.”

Yue Dingtang: “How much do you know about him, is he married?”

Ling Shu: “Do you suspect that Du Yunning was having an affair with him? That’s impossible.”

Yue Dingtang’s driver was still waiting at the entrance, seeing them come over, he hurriedly opened the door.

The two got in, the car started moving, then Ling Shu continued to speak.

“When you see this man you will understand. He’s rather old and he doesn’t seem to be particularly well-spoken. It’s not likely that Du Yunning would have any relationship with this person.

Yue Dingtang pondered for a moment, “Alright let’s go to the cafe to take a look.”

From there to the New Moon Cafe, with the absence of traffic, it was a fifteen minute trip by car.

The two of them got off at the end of the street, walking a few steps forward, they could already see the coffee sign from afar.

The New Moon cafe looked aged.

It had freshly painted exterior walls, a few well-used windows, and some green plants that were trying to maintain their vitality in the cold winter. The waiters were in uniform, all the details could show the owner’s intentions for this cafe.

But a coffee shop opened in China would of course still hold Chinese traits, such as the song that was playing now, it wasn’t Western music, but a well-known Chinese song《Mo Li Hua》.

The two of them were not in a hurry to enter the Coffee Shop, they went into shops near the coffee shop to browse, and exchange a few words with the shopkeepers. They bought some stuff and tried to find out something about the New Moon Cafe from the shopkeepers.

This coffee shop had been around for a while but it had changed management twice, the first owner was surnamed Han. Apparently the business lost money so he packed up and moved back to hometown in the countryside. The current owner is surnamed Li and was a friend of the previous owner surnamed Han. Apparently, he had used a bit of money to renovate and build up the coffee shop again.

The business at the coffee shop was quite good and the owner was a pleasant man. He’d even helped out a couple of his employees in the shop. Even when any neighbours had any problems, Mr Li would do everything he could to help them.

Mr Li is very nice, it’s just a pity that in this era, it’s hard to be a good person, only evil people get recognition these days!”

Ling Shu crossed over from the opposite side of the street. After entering the tea shop, that’s what he heard the shopkeeper telling Yue Dingtang.

“Why do you say that?” Ling Shu asked.

“And this is?” The tea shopkeeper looked at Ling Shu.

Yue Dingtang: “His surname is Yang, he is my colleague, he’s come out with me today to conduct social research.”

The shopkeeper smiled brightly: “Oh it’s Professor Yang, quick come take a seat! Xiao Dong, serve the tea!”

In recent years, exceptional intellectual types were getting more respect, especially professors such as Yue Dingtang. Compared to the Qing Dynasty, this would be equivalent to those officials who had worked in the Hanlin Academy, who could be promoted at any time into the Grand Secretariat. In the eyes of the common people, there was a feeling of distance and a need to look up towards these intellectuals.

Yue Dingtang was using the method of conducting social research in order to chat to the shopkeeper. He’d also purchased some tea leaves so he was naturally welcomed with open arms.

“Speaking of which, for Mr Li to rebuild this coffee shop was not an easy feat. He originally thought that it was doing a friend a favour and helping someone out who could have known that after a month of reopening the coffee shop, someone came to the door, saying that Mr Han had also sold the coffee shop to him. At the time, Mr Han had already received the money and he had already disappeared. The other man even took up a lawsuit, so Mr Li who had already spent a lot of money in the renovation and re-opening had to take out another sum of money for this other man.”

This tea shop was located diagonally opposite to the coffee shop, he could see it from the corner of his eye. He was very happy to share everything he knew about the coffee shop with the two of them. It seemed like he was very familiar with both the current and the former cafe owner.
“So what you’re saying is, Mr Li is a very loyal person?” asked Yue Dingtang.

The shopkeeper nodded: “Yes, this year’s winter, there was a downpour of torrential rain in Shanghai, many places were flooded. My tea leaves here are very precious and mustn’t be touched by water. Luckily Mr Li lent me a few big crates. I put the tea leaves in there and sealed them, so they were not damaged at all. In the end, his own coffee beans, about half of them, were ruined. If you ask anyone on this street, it’s very likely that they will have something good to say about him!”

Ling Shu: “I see that there is not an enormous amount of customers in the coffee shop,he is so helpful to other people, won’t he be losing money?”

The shopkeeper laughed:“I heard that he came back from overseas. His family lives in Southeast Asia and they also have a business over there. Apparently, he came back to China to retire, his son is still in Southeast Asia doing sales. His son sends him money every month and is very filial. I think it doesn’t really matter if the coffee shop is making a loss. His son has written a lot to him to go back, but Mr Li said since he is still able he’d like to work a bit more and for the moment, he doesn’t want to go back.”

Ling Shu: “Did he tell you all this?”

Shopkeeper: “Yep, I’ve also seen photos sent by his son, his grandson is chubby and bright and can even call him grandpa.”

Yue Dingtang: “Hearing you say all this, I think the direction of our research is correct, we could do a paper on the Southeast Asian shop owner returning to China.”

Shopkeeper: “I don’t know if my little tea shop could also make it into your work?”

Yue Dingtang laughed: “Of course, Tangji Tea shop, I’ve noted it down.”

After he spoke, he showed the notebook that he had been writing in to the shopkeeper,which delighted the latter.

Ling Shu butted in:“Oh yes, shopkeeper, have you seen the paper today? It has something to do with our research today.”

Shopkeeper: “Not yet, what is it?”

Ling Shu: “Shanghai socialite Du Yunning was found dead, at the moment cause of death is unknown, but it is suspected murder. Our social research also includes public safety, so it’s a good opportunity for the police to come and ask a few questions in a bit.

The shopkeeper gasped in shock, attracting the attention of both Yue Dingtang and Ling Shu.

“Did you say Du Yunning? Mrs Yuan? She’s dead?!”

Ling Shu: Yes it is the lady of Yuan manor, Mrs Yuan, Du Yunning, why, do you know her?”

The shopkeeper: “I can’t say that I know her personally but she’s quite famous. My little shop hasn’t had the fortune of crossing paths with her but before I’ve seen her drinking coffee in the coffee shop opposite…. what a shame, Mrs Yuan was such a beauty, why would she suddenly be found dead!”

Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang looked at each other.

“Did she come alone to drink coffee, there was no one with her?”

The Shopkeeper hesitated and then said: “There was, but I can’t remember clearly.”

Ling Shu: “Was it a man or a woman?”

“It was a man,” The man smacked his own thigh, “I remember! It’s two people! Each time she would only meet up with one but it seemed like there were two different people. One of them, he kind of looks like you! The other one was shorter than you, maybe about half a head but he was usually wearing a dark red suit!”

Ling Shu: “Are you certain?”

Shopkeeper: “Of course, that gentleman even went next door to the Western Goods Shop to buy some cold cream, I bumped into him by accident, he was very charming and polite, and he was wearing glasses. He kind of looked like the two of you, an intellectual.”

After saying bye to the shopkeeper, Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang headed towards the coffee shop. The sky was already starting to darken into a deep blue, it looked like it could be re-painted in black at any moment.

The cold winter wind blew mercilessly, hovering over the neon lights of Shanghai, and then passed through the alleyways, making the unclothed beggars curl up more and more to hug their own bodies to keep warm. The wind was finally blocked outside by the huge door of the cafe.

Inside the coffee shop, it was warm with a fragrant scent circling around the place.
08/01/22 – Updated and re-phrased.

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