The Plough – Chapter 8

Ghost Sighting.
After a meal, Ling Shu breathed a sigh of relief, as if he’d been reborn.

He thought that he should have just stayed in prison, at least that way it wouldn’t be his ears that were paying for the crime.

And Ling Yao couldn’t bear the smell that he was giving off any longer, straight after the meal, she sent him off to take a shower.
“You better clean up well, having dinner with an old classmate with that disgusting stench, you’re really something!”

Ling Yao dragged him upstairs, then suddenly lowered her voice.

“Be honest, what the hell did you do last night, why are you so dirty and smelly!”
Ling Shu replied innocently: “Really nothing much, just when I was chasing after a suspect I fell over.”

Ling Yao evidently didn’t believe him but because there was a guest in the house, so she just poked his forehead forcefully and didn’t ask anymore.

Ling Shu thought about it, then asked her: “Jie, has brother-in-law said anything to you lately, has he been having trouble at work or has he offended anyone?”

Ling Yao was first suspicious and then nervous.

“No, why? Did something happen to your brother-in-law?”

“Don’t worry,” Ling Shu made up some nonsense. “Recently, there was some internal strife between our superiors and some others. He lost the fight and was arrested on suspicious of some wanton crime. So I just wanted to ask about brother-in-law.”

Ling Yao:“Don’t you scare me, he’s fine, yesterday when he finished work he was in a very good mood, he even went to Lao Da Chang to pick up a few of my favourite cakes.”

Ling Shu: “Alright, well I’m going to shower, in a bit when we take the one surnamed Yue back, we can go take a look at our old school.”

“Don’t say the one surnamed Yue!” Ling Yao pulled him closer and whispered, “He’s in a good situation now and his family background is not bad, plus, he even cares about your old friendship to come over to see you. You must appreciate his kindness, you two should get close again, you never know he might even help you find a wife!”

Ling Shu: “How can he help? More like help dig a pit for me and find me an ugly and repulsive wife?”

Ling Yao lifted her hand to hit him, Ling Shu swiftly avoided her attack and rushed into the bathroom.

He purposefully wasted a lot of time in the bathroom and didn’t come out for an hour.

Surprisingly Yue Dingtang was sitting in the exact same spot as before, even his position hadn’t changed much and he didn’t show any signs of annoyance.

“Do you need a drink of water before going out? You were out all night last night, if you’re tired, you could rest a bit before heading out.” He said with the utmost care.

If it hadn’t been for the scene before in the interrogation room, Ling Shu would have really thought that he was just being a caring old classmate.

“If I sleep, it’ll be a few hours, how could I ask you to wait that long?”

“No worries, if it takes too long, I’ll have dinner here, I don’t think da-jie will mind.”

Ling Yao didn’t notice their coded conversation, and asked him repeatedly to stay for dinner.

There was only Ling Shu who could hear the other’s implicit threats.

Two pairs of eyes staring at each other. The two of them could see the insincerity in each other’s faces under the plastered on fake smiles.

Most of the people who died this year were left in their homes waiting to be buried in the mountains, and those who had no family could only be taken to Coffin home1义庄 yìzhuāng temporary place to store bodies before they are buried..

Du Yunning’s situation was special.

Her death was a homicide, her status was also a big factor, even if there was no one from the Yuan family who could personally come to prepare the body for the burial, they could also not carelessly take her to the outskirts. Under Smith’s orders, her body was temporarily placed in the ice storage of a nearby hospital.

Two days later, the sky was freezing, and the corpse did not look much distorted, but the whole body was glowing with pale blue and white, with an utter lack of vitality.

The two of them were standing on either side of the body, bowing their heads down, passing a period of silence.

Yue Dingtang was the first to break the silence.

“There have already been a few newspapers starting to report that something has happened with the Yuan family, Smith won’t be able to suppress it for much longer.”

“If we can’t find the real culprit, under public pressure, in order to face the superiors, they will give them the suspect that the evidence is pointing to.”

“It was very difficult to bail you out, and I had to have a lot of discussions.”

“There isn’t much time left.”

In the presence of the dead, he tried his best to make his tone not sound so indifferent and inhuman.

No matter what grudges he and Ling Shu had for each other in the past, at least the two now have a common purpose.

Ling Shu walked around the body twice, his expression was solemn, and he looked carefully, as if he hadn’t heard what Yue Dingtang said.

“She’s changed a lot.”

Yue Dingtang moved his lips and wanted to say, after a person dies, could there not be a big change.

But he quickly found out that he had misunderstood him.

What Ling Shu was talking about wasn’t the change in her body.

“Before she was very naive, she always said that she wanted to go take a look at the world outside, but she never had the guts to do it.”

“I still remember one time, in the mountains behind the school we discovered a chick that had fallen out of its nest. Du Yunning held on to the baby chick and said she was going to wait for its mother to come back, we waited until the sky turned dark.”
“Sometimes, if we passed by some beggars on the street, she would always give out some spare change, even when I said those people were part of a gang or manipulated by some party, she would say, perhaps these people could also really be helpless, forced to beg,but if the money they get, a cent can go into their own pockets, or if the money could go towards their children’s education, then perhaps it is like saving a life.”

“Back in school, she also wrote a poem, which was often recited out loud by the Chinese teachers, the classmates eagerly passed out copies, everyone said, in the future she’d definitely become one of the city’s most talented women.”

“But this,”

Ling Shu lifted up his head, looked at Yue Dingtang.

“The Du Yunning that I reunited with, I couldn’t even find a trace of that person that I remembered.”

Ling Shu’s deepest impression of Du Yunning was when Ling Yao went to propose marriage. Du Yunning’s father was sitting on the sofa, with a condescending attitude, he said that the Du family already had an engagement with the Yuan family.

At that time, Du Yunning was hiding behind the porch under the grape trellis in the garden outside, full of tears, she looked at Ling Shu with sadness. Ling Shu using his youthful courage had asked her if she would like to go and study abroad with him, sever ties with their families, like many of the youths of today who were full of new ideals and dreams, and start a new life together.

He still remembers Du Yunning’s answer–

No, I can’t. Ling Shu, this is my family, my parents, I don’t have a way out.

“So, she didn’t have the courage to leave with me back then, after receiving years of abuse from the Yuan family, she would never have thought of being with me again.”

At this point, Ling Shu frowned.

“But this corpse is indeed her. Just now, I thought her speculation about feigning death and fleeing was wrong.”

Yue Dingtang: “Do you still remember the list of assets that she showed you, what was the handwriting like on it, could it be imitated?”

Ling Shu shook his head: “If I could see it again, I should be able to recognise it.”

Yue Dingtang: “After your confession that day I already sent people over to question the Yuan family but no one knows where she put that document and before she died she never had any contact with any bank managers or pawn shops. On the day that she died, after the coffee shop with you, she went home and then she was found dead in her room.”
Ling Shu said: “What about the Yuan family’s assets, is there anything missing?”

Yue Dingtang sighed: “Don’t know and there is no way to know. In the last few years, the Yuan family assets have been a mess, the account books that they had were all incorrect.They also can’t tell what was taken by Yuan Bing to sell or squandered, and which ones were taken by the subordinates. Under these conditions, as the lady of the house, it would be very easy for Du Yunning to do something.”

Ling Shu:“That person could be someone in the Yuan family or it could be someone she met elsewhere.”

Yue Dingtang: “Let’s first ask the Yuan family.”

Ling Shu: “Hasn’t the Yuan residence been closed off?”

Yue Dingtang: “Yuan Manor has two buildings, one in the front and a smaller one in the back. The main building in front is now sealed, but the back building is reserved for Yuan family’s servants. It is being guarded by the police. They are not allowed to leave without authorization until the investigation of the case is clear.”

Perhaps seeing Du Yunning’s body again, both of them had felt some shock.

Neither spoke on the way until the car stopped outside the Yuan manor.

A few people outside with cameras around their necks were clearly newspaper reporters at first glance.

When the other party saw Yue Dingtang, they walked in, and immediately greeted him for an interview.

Yue Dingtang waved his hand without saying a word, the police officers on duty immediately separated them, and escorted the two to the small building behind the manor.

The Yuan family was a big family, and a small two-story building was specially built for the servants. Apart from the rooms being smaller and the conditions were not as luxurious as the main building in front of it, there was not much difference.

Since the death of Yuan Bingdao, Yuan Bing has not done well with business, and the Yuan family wasn’t in such a prosperous situation as before. Many of the rooms were now left vacant now. Now there were only six servants living in the small building, including the butler and Du Yunning’s personal maid, Ah-lan, who was the most special one.

“I remember you, one time, when Du Yunning came to meet me, she brought you along with her. As far as I know she no longer had any contact with her family, you must be the person she trusted the most.” Ling Shu said as soon as he saw her.

Ah-Lan smiled shyly, then shook her head, making a gesture.

The butler knew sign language and acted as an interpreter next to her.

“Ah-Lan said she can’t accept your praise.”

Ling Shu: “The day before Mrs Yuan died, what did she do after coming back from the coffee shop?”

This question had already been asked by the police, Ah-lan didn’t even have to think about it, and the butler was quick to interpret as well.
“She said that Mrs Yuan seemed to be in a bad mood, she didn’t eat much at dinner, and just rested a bit, Ah-Lan didn’t dare to go in and disturb her. In the evening, she knocked on the door to ask if Mrs Yuan wanted some supper, Mrs Yuan had replied no need, so then she went to wake up Mrs Yuan at the usual time in the morning and discovered her corpse.”

Ling Shu: “Did she have any close friends?”

Butler: “Mrs Yuan attended a lot of banquets, but she rarely went out to meet anyone alone, I’ve never seen her close with anyone, except recently, the last two times when she went to see a gentleman surnamed Ling.”

Ling Shu:……

Yue Dingtang: “What did she say about him?”

Butler: “She said she bumped into an old classmate, and even said that this Mr Ling was as charming as ever.”

Yue Dingtang raised his chin slightly and pointed to Ling Shu: “He is that Mr. Ling.”

The eyes of the old butler looking at Ling Shu immediately became strange, as if he had a thousand words but he couldn’t say it out loud.

Ling Shu:……

Whether he explained or not didn’t matter, so he might as well act as if he hadn’t seen.

“I want to take them both to have a look at the crime scene.”

Yue Dingtang nodded his head: “After the crime they immediately sealed the crime scene, even the footprint on the windowsill is still there.”

But he quickly discovered that what he said was false.

Yesterday it had just snowed even if there was no wind, the footprint had now been covered over with a layer of snow.

Not only this, the wind had blown open the window, snowflakes had entered into the room, even onto the bed.

This was naturally the neglect of the police force but at the beginning of this year. This kind of thing was a regular occurrence. Yue Dingtang knew in his heart that there was no point in saying anything.

Everyone was looking around.

The room was very much Du Yunning’s style, everything was extravagant with a delicate softness.

It was obvious that Yuan Bing probably didn’t like it in here, Ling Shu could not see any trace of men’s products, not even in the wardrobe, there was only Du Yunning’s own clothes.
That meant that this married couple slept in separate bedrooms.

No wonder when something happened to Du Yunning, Yuan Bing didn’t have a clue.

“When the culprit came in through the window, you heard absolutely nothing at all?” 

This time Ling Shu was asking the butler.

The butler smiled bitterly: “When Mr Yuan Senior was alive, the house already had some guards but then Mr Yuan said here is the International Settlement, it’s plenty safe. There’s no need to add some extra mouths to feed so he dismissed quite a few people. Before the incident, the Yuan family had three guards who took it in turns to do the nightwatch. When there is a shortage of people, I would also help out. That night, San Cai had food poisoning,Lao De had taken leave to go home so I took their place that night. But I’m old, I must have dozed off in the middle of the night, when I woke up the sun was already rising, seeing that there didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary, I didn’t think much of it. Who could have predicted that something so big could have happened.”

He was almost seventy years old, his hair was all white, wearing a changpao that barely supported by his slightly crooked back.

This old man, he wouldn’t be able to flee through the window, let alone kill someone.

According to the old butler and her maid, usually Du Yunning liked to go to the coffee shop to drink tea, or perhaps go shopping at the department store, or participate in dinner parties held by other wealthy wives.

In terms of enemies, aside from the idle gossip and banter with the other wives, but these were small matters, and there was no way that the wives would go so far as murder.

“I heard from the first policeman to the scene–”

Yue Dingtang walked over to the side of the bed and opened up a drawer.

“At that time they saw that this drawer was half-open.”

Ling Shu asked: “What about the things inside?”

Yue Dingtang:“Not one thing was missing. Money, jewellery, gold watch, all here.”

Ling Shu: “Then that rules out a culprit murdering for money.”

Yue Dingtang made a noise in agreement: “In fact, the questions that you just asked, we had already asked them previously.”

He didn’t stop Ling Shu because he wanted to see if Ling Shu was able to discover something new.

The old butler and the maid stood at the door obediently, waiting for them both to look over the whole room and then they all walked towards the stairs together with the other policeman.

Ling Shu suddenly remembered Du Yunning’s three letters and wanted to ask about them when he heard a noise behind him.

He turned around and saw the maid’s foot slip and she tripped down the stairs.

The maid fell down at a crooked angle, luckily the policeman was sharp and was able to grab her, otherwise the old butler would have been injured.
“What’s going on, you know how to go down a flight of stairs right?!” The policeman berated.

The maid Ah-Lan seemed like she had heard something, she looked terrified. She turned around to look behind her as if she had seen something incredibly frightening.

Ling Shu followed her line of sight, he discovered that the door of the bedroom that they had definitely closed had somehow sprung open.

The window was blowing in from the open window, the sunlight and shade flickered away, the cold air blew in through the window bringing a chilliness all the way to the stairs.

Dimly by the bedside there seemed to be a shadow of a person, but at the same time it seemed to be an illusion, perhaps it was the curtain blowing back and forth creating this mirage.
13/07/21 – (夫人) Fu-ren → Mrs Yuan to refer to Du Yunning. Decided against Mistress because of the connotations to adultery, could have used Madam.
(老爷) Laoye → Mr Yuan to refer to Yuan Bing. Given than Mrs Yuan is used to keep it consistent.
(老太爷) Lao taiye → Mr Yuan Senior to keep it consistent with Yuan Bing as Mr Yuan.
08/01/2022 – re-edited and re-formatted.

2 thoughts on “The Plough – Chapter 8”

  1. Ohhh so did Du Yunning die? It seems like she did, but at the same time, she did not….And the ending seems suspicious.

    Thank you for the chapter!


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