The Plough – Chapter 27

Ling Shu!
Because this place never saw the light of day, the air was cold and damp,although it was not as chilly as the cold winter wind outside, there was still a nip in the air. And the eroding silence made it even more frightening, making every hair on their bodies stand on end.

Shen Renjie couldn’t help clutching his gun.

But the palms of his hands were just as sweaty as before.

He started to secretly regret coming.

At the Municipal Police, there was a custom that everyone knew about and it was the fact that the salary between a Western officer and a Chinese officer was not the same. So naturally their statuses were also unequal, sometimes the salary of a Chinese officer might even be lower than that of an Indian officer.

When a thorny or hard to handle case arose the Chinese officers would be the first to be thrown into the firing line. In terms of the easy cases and tasks, this was left mainly to the Western Officers who worked out in front so that even those criminals who have been arrested. When they saw a Western officer, they’d perhaps not dare to resist.

Even though, in recent years, the Ministry of Commerce had increased the number of Chinese board member seats to try to equalise the authority of the Chinese in the International Settlement. However, this had done little to help those in the lower ranks.

Take for example Shen Renjie, although he had worked for several years at the station, he is still an ordinary policeman, and it would be very difficult for him to be promoted aside from if he had someone backing him or he hugged someone’s thigh1抱上大腿 = ride someone’s coattails, hang on/benefit from someone who is stronger than you/has better abilities to aid your own success or survival.

In his eyes, Yue Dingtang was that thigh.

This person had lived abroad and had just come back. He must have a vast network of contacts because even Smith, who usually turned his nose up at everyone, was courteous and polite to him.

Shen Renjie had also heard that Yue Dingtang’s family had even more powerful figures, his two elder brothers had excellent relationships on all sides – government and commerce were both in their hands. This kind of thigh, if he missed the village then they wouldn’t be another shop2过了这村就没那店 – if he misses this opportunity, it will be hard to find another as good/seize the moment, so wasn’t it the best time to hug it tightly now?

The opportunity to come out and investigate the case was hard to come by, even if he was afraid he still had to grit his teeth and continue on but right now, Shen Renjie was actually getting chills.

The oil lamp in his hand was unable to give him some courage. Instead, a cold chill grew from the outside in.

He touched his pocket whilst trembling and fished out another flashlight.

Behind him an exceptionally clear sound was heard in the dark.

Shen Renjie was scared out of his wits. He almost jumped out of his skin. Half a second later he realised that it was the sound of the people behind him turning on their flashlights, so he secretly scolded himself.

With the addition of several flashlights, the space around them was a lot brighter, on the whole reducing some of their fear.
The old butler didn’t have a light in his hands, he just kept walking forward. He was also not like Shen Renjie and the others who were starting and stopping, and paying attention to their surroundings and looking around. He only cared about advancing forward, the more he walked the faster he went. Then when Shen Renjie reached forward with his hand – he found that he had grabbed onto thin air, he had lost the butler.

“Butler! Lao Bai!3老白 lit. Old white!

Shen Renjie shouted a few times but he didn’t get any response from the old butler.

“Mr Yue, what should we do? Do you think the old butler is hiding on purpose?”

Shen Renjie did his best to stay calm but he was still coming out all over with goosebumps.

Given the old butler’s age, where could he actually hide. He was more afraid that some unknown person was hiding in the shadows and had captured the old butler.

He was hiding in the dark, while we were an easy target out there. Shen Renjie didn’t even know if it was a person or a ghost.

Whether it was a ghost or a person was not necessarily what was scary, what scared him was his imagination of the unknown.

Yue Dingtang didn’t say anything which made Shen Renjie even more panicked.

He was afraid that the two people behind him had also disappeared so he immediately turned around to take a look.

“Mr Yue, do you want me to go find him?”
“I’ll look for the entrance. It was definitely here, why can’t I see it……”

The old butler finally spoke from the other side.

The cellar had some pots standing in the space between them but he couldn’t see anyone.

But Shen Renjie could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

“Don’t get worked up.”

He finally heard Yue Dingtang speak up, whilst he had just bent down to look at the pot on the floor.

There were many pots like this, they were piled up in every nook and cranny and empty space in the basement, one on top of the other, like small mountains.

The flashlight swept across the place. They could see that between the pots there was a tiny little crooked passageway in between them, providing a place for people to walk. This was so that someone could easily take the pickled vegetables, otherwise if they had all been stacked together, it would be hard to tell which ones were fresh and which ones were dated.

Ling Shu expressed his surprise.

Shen Renjie’s heart jumped with it!

He had now started to panic and jump at the slightest noise.

In a moment he’d find out that it was just a false alarm.

Because Ling Shu was just crouched down looking at the pot in front of him, nothing strange had actually arisen.

If it had been Yue Dingtang, Shen Renjie wouldn’t have dared to scold him, but he couldn’t resist rolling his eyes at Ling Shu.

He’d not done rolling his eyes, when Ling Shu turned around.

Shen Renjie suffered another fright.

But he quickly realised that Ling Shu couldn’t actually see him, because it was too dark.

“You guys come and take a look over here.” Ling Shu beckoned.

Shen Renjie walked over warily.

He thought that he might see some horrific scene such as a dismembered hand or foot or that the pot was overflowing with blood.

But there wasn’t any of that.

The pot that Ling Shu wanted them to see was right at the back and wasn’t any different from the others from anywhere else.
“The marks around the pot as well as on the actual pot. ”

Without allowing Shen Renjie to ask, Ling Shu already offered up the answer.

”This pot is too clean, if you rub it there is almost no dust, which is clearly unlike the ones next to it. ”

Ling Shu used his flashlight to shine upon the pot that was sitting on top of that one: “There’s also a handprint on the pot above it, meaning that someone has moved it. Let’s first move the ones on top now. ”

Yue Dingtang said: “Lao Shen, go and help. ”

Shen Renjie: …..

He accepted his fate and went over, moving the pots one by one to the side.

Ling Shu finally picked up the one on the bottom.

He punctured the paper seal on top of the pot.

“There’s no sealing clay. ”

Without the presence of sealing clay meant that what was inside wasn’t pickled vegetables.

Plus they had just entered inside and had discovered that the smell of the pickled vegetables here was not particularly strong. It could even be said that there was no smell at all,there was only an ice-cold damp dust in the air.

This was enough to prove that at least for the last few months or even before that, Ah-Lan had already stopped making the pickled vegetables.

As for what she had been doing in this basement or whether she had discovered the secret entrance was now what they needed to find out.

Ling Shu picked up the pot and shook it.

*Ding ding dong*
Many bits and pieces were clearly moving around inside.

Shen Renjie’s heart jumped once more, and secretly thought to himself, could it be gold or treasure?

Ling Shu smashed the pot open, and the stuff that was inside fell to the floor.

The flashlight shone on it – Shen Renjie stared blankly.

It was all women’s makeup.

Lipstick, whitening cream, blush and eyeshadow.

There were local and imported products but all could be considered big brands.

Even the three men were able to recognise that there was Chanel and Danqi.

But the question was.

These kinds of cosmetics were extremely expensive, Ah-Lan could perhaps have bought one or two items, but in that pot there were dozens of pieces and all brand new. The majority had also never been used. Even if she had spent the savings she had saved up for half a lifetime, it would still not be enough to buy all that.

Where did she get the money from?

Or perhaps, who was the person that gifted it to her?

Was it Hong Xiaoguang?

Did he use this kind of trick to capture Ah-lan’s affection whilst also going after Du Yunning at the same time?

Had Hong Xiaoguang known about the secret entrance to the basement in advance,so he schemed to get close to these two women. Du Yunning had had the key in her hands so perhaps he had already taken it?

Aside from the makeup products, the pot also contained a couple of letters.

At first, Ling Shu didn’t recognise these letters.

Because they had been folded and then rolled up in a small box.

When the whitening cream box was opened, all the letters fell out.

Ling Shu had a look at two of them and knew that these were all love letters.

They were basically love poems copied from foreign poets with the most part being Shakespeare.

It was definitely the love poems that Hong Xiaoguang had written to Ah-Lan.

Because the writing was exactly the same as the one that they had discovered in his room. “This maid couldn’t read though, right?” Shen Renjie asked, unable to resist any longer.

“I believe so.” Ling Shu slid his slender fingers along the back of the envelope, “But it looks like she recognises her own name so she copied Hong Xiaoguang’s handwriting at the back, writing the “Lan” character again and again.”

Shen Renjie clicked his tongue: “I’ve heard of using beauty to seduce someone, but I thought that only women did this kind of thing. I never knew that men could also do this to women and even to this extent!”
The love poems in the letters were not well connected between each paragraph. It was obvious that the person who copied the love poems lacked knowledge and just used a mechanical method, or maybe he has not put his mind on Ah-Lan at all, thinking that she is not even worth the effort.

But Ah-Lan, who was illiterate, still kept these letters in a “secret garden” that she thought no one could find. Judging from the repeated creases on these letters, she must have looked at them whenever she was free. Taking it out and reading it silently over and over again, to relieve herself from missing her secret lover.

“Ah!”

From the other side of the basement, the old butler suddenly cried out in fear.

Utterly confused and unprepared.

After a short cry, the noise stopped abruptly, ending very suddenly.

Shen Renjie hesitated for half a second, but Yue Dingtang had already rushed in front of him, gun in hand.

He could only quickly follow as well.

The three of them rushed to the place where the old butler had just cried out, but saw that the old butler was already lying on the ground, his head seemed to have been hit hard by something, and blood was flowing from his forehead.

Shen Renjie hurriedly shone the flashlight around, but saw nothing.

“Who is it!”

Ling Shu suddenly shouted, drew his gun and turned to chase.

Just now, when Shen Renjie’s flashlight was swaying randomly, he didn’t even notice it, and just happened to flash over the shadow in the corner behind them.

But Ling Shu had seen it.

He only made a sound to attract the attention of his two companions. After all, in a hurry, the only choice now was to make chase.

The black shadow reacted extremely quickly, and whilst running he knocked over a pot, it smashed and fell to the ground.

Ling Shu, who was catching up from behind, couldn’t avoid it, stepped directly on the debris with his foot, and slid forward. If it weren’t for Yue Dingtang grabbing him from behind, he’d probably be face down on the ground on top of the smashed debris.

“Don’t let him get away!”

Ling Shu gritted his teeth in pain. It wasn’t because the soles were too thin and the shards had pierced through, but it was because he just hit his knees on the ground on to the broken pieces, so he was probably bleeding now.

“Mr Yue, quick come look!”

Shen Renjie shouted out from in front.
When the two rushed over, next to a pile of broken pots, some bricks had been pried open, revealing a dark entrance below.

Shen Renjie just stood there, as if he was afraid to go down.

Yue Dingtang with doubt: “This is the secret level? Didn’t it need a key to be opened?”

Shen Renjie quickly said: “I just heard a noise coming from down there. There seems to be another door down there!”

Whilst the two were talking, Ling Shu had already bent his head down and entered. Yue Dingtang was too late to stop him.

“Ling Shu!”

Ling Shu had just ducked down when he saw the shadow of the person he had just been chasing disappear behind the iron door.

Ling Shu didn’t hesitate to chase after him!

He had a strong feeling that he was getting closer and closer to the truth.

Regardless of whether the murderer was Hong Xiaoguang or someone else, it might be completely resolved tonight!

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