In the late night of the old warehouse, Song Lan’en finished his work. Although it wasn’t all completed today, it was almost there. He entered the crude restroom and turned on the water for a cold shower.
The area outside the warehouse was mostly desolate land, and even in late autumn, there were still plenty of insects.
The restroom was damp, and the door didn’t isolate sound well, so he could hear the intermittent snoring from the next room where Dai Yuansheng slept.
The icy liquid flowed over his body.
Then Song Lan’en looked at himself in the mirror. Over the past two years, the metal collar around his neck had left a ring of abrasions. His cheeks were slightly sunken, and his eyes looked frightening. Due to the lack of sunlight for a long time, his face had a pale and eerie complexion.
Song Lan’en looked at the somewhat unfamiliar person in the mirror, shaved off his stubble, and then used a knife in his hand to sever the hair at the back of his head.
Tomorrow, everything will be over.
Song Lan’en changed into the clothes provided by Xu Shuang and walked out. The woman hadn’t slept yet. She stood motionless at the entrance of the warehouse, her arms crossed, resembling a ghost in the late night.
Song Lan’en walked over and squatted beside her. He also lit a cigarette.
Xu Shuang looked at him without speaking. She felt that this was a strange situation. When Mo ShAn Yuci smoked, she detested it to the point of hating it, but when Song Lan’en smoked, she found it bearable. She could even find a slight numbness and comfort in the smell of the smoke.
For this man who had always provided them with tools for their crimes, she felt a sense of reliance.
He could give her a unique sense of security because he was one of them, their core, their leader.
“Aren’t you afraid?” Song Lan’en suddenly asked her.
“I’m not afraid…” Xu Shuang glanced at him and stubbornly replied in a low voice.
“You don’t need to pretend. It’s okay to be afraid. If you don’t want to continue, after you walk out tomorrow, you can go find the police or just leave that thing anywhere. Nobody says you have to do anything,” Song Lan’en suddenly said with a smile.
Xu Shuang felt as if she had been seen through. She had been hesitant about what to do before. But she still said, “Don’t worry, I won’t go to the police. I can’t betray my comrades.”
Song Lan’en added, “Anyway, it’s just a gift for you all. Tomorrow, there will be enough people participating. I hope the police will be exhausted while chasing after you.”
Xu Shuang’s eyes flickered, “This time, are you… are you using us?”
She heard from the man’s words that they seemed to be insignificant pawns, only meant to cover up his existence.
Song Lan’en said, “I still remember the first time you saw me, crying and begging me to fulfill your desires. Everyone is just using each other.”
Xu Shuang asked, “Where are you going?”
Song Lan’en extinguished the cigarette in his hand and walked back into the warehouse. “You don’t need to worry about where I’m going. I have my own purpose.”
That night, Xu Shuang hardly slept. The restroom had a slight leak, and she seemed to always hear gurgling water sounds.
The second day was a sunny day. Early in the morning, Song Lan’en completed the final processing and handed some finished items to Dai Yuansheng and Bi Shanyu. The three of them quickly left and individually placed those items in predetermined locations, waiting for someone to come and retrieve them.
At noon, after having lunch, Song Lan’en took out four items wrapped in plastic bags. He pushed three of them in front of the other three people.
They were black plastic bags containing explosives, resembling thick dictionaries.
However, this item was highly dangerous. It could cause buildings to collapse, take lives, and destroy the once beautiful world.
The faces of the three individuals were filled with an unprecedented seriousness.
Although they had engaged in similar actions before, they had always received items separately. They had never acted collectively like this.
Each of them was well aware that this was the last time.
This was their final gathering.
The warehouse was filled with a sense of ceremony.
“These are the latest creations. This time, we used new techniques to make them more stable and more powerful. I have set the explosion time for 5 PM. The countdown has already begun, and you can see how much time is left,” Song Lan’en introduced. “Just like before, you can place them according to your own needs.”
It was like a final game, and Song Lan’en explained the rules.
Several hours was enough time. They could reach all the targets in this area.
The three individuals received the weighty explosives and put them in their respective backpacks.
Dai Yuansheng asked, “Is there anything else we need to be aware of?”
Song Lan’en smiled at him and said, “Wishing you success.”
Dai Yuansheng replied, “May we meet here again.”
Xu Shuang lazily glanced at him and said, “No, we won’t. Good luck to you.”
Song Lan’en checked the time and said, “Let’s go. We can go in different directions and use different means of transportation. Wish you all a happy hunt.”
Bi Shanyu stepped forward, giving him a gentle hug, and patted his back. “GOOD LUCK.”
They quickly left. Song Lan’en hailed a taxi, while Dai Yuansheng walked to a bus stop, hunching his back, and boarded a bus, both going their separate ways.
At this moment, the heavy atmosphere had disappeared. They left with a sense of joy, not seeming like they were about to kill, but rather like they were finally resolving their worries.
Bi Shanyu stood by the roadside, calmly took out a cigarette, lit it, and started smoking. He asked Xu Shuang, who was beside him, “Why aren’t you leaving?”
Xu Shuang glanced at him and smiled mischievously, “Be careful. If this cigarette ignites the bomb, it would save us some trouble.”
“I’m standing next to you now. Shouldn’t you be worried about yourself too?” Bi Shanyu looked at her, suddenly abandoning his usual playful expression and adopting a serious demeanor.
His serious expression made Xu Shuang feel a bit unfamiliar. She trembled and said, “Um, I was just joking.”
Finally, she understood why she didn’t like Bi Shanyu. This man always gave her a strange feeling—a sense of danger. It made her unable to predict what would happen or what he would say.
“Have you never killed anyone before?” Bi Shanyu squinted his eyes, smoking, and asked her.
Xu Shuang kept her head down and remained silent.
Bi Shanyu continued, “Out of the four bombings you carried out, two of them were empty, and only two exploded in places where people were present. The first one injured someone, and the second one injured three people, but none of them died.”
“Who told you? Song Lan’en?” Xu Shuang asked softly. In the past, they would draw lots to determine who would be involved in each operation. Only the chosen person would be contacted by Song Lan’en, while the others remained unaware.
Every time, Song Lan’en would provide them with an address, and they would retrieve the items placed there to carry out their actions. This was also the first time they had met in over two years.
She didn’t know how many times the others had participated. Although she had made estimates and followed the subsequent police reports, she didn’t know the specific details and numbers. However, Bi Shanyu could clearly articulate the time and locations of each of her actions, even seeing through her inner thoughts.
A gust of wind blew, and Xu Shuang felt a bit chilly. She guessed that Jie Qiu should have killed the most, followed by the man in front of her.
She reminded herself that he was a brutal and dangerous man.
Bi Shanyu didn’t answer her question but continued smoking and said, “I guess that under normal circumstances, you can restrain your desires. The reason you came this time, the reason you participated, is because you were once threatened by those people and didn’t have the courage to refuse. And also…”
He glanced at her, “Look at the ring on your right hand. You’re now in a relationship with a new boyfriend, right? You came this time after a fight with him, didn’t you? You’re afraid he’ll find out what you’re doing, but at the same time, you want him to regret it…”
Xu Shuang clenched her fist, hiding her right hand behind her. She suddenly realized that despite knowing each other for a long time through online chat, and spending the past few days together, she didn’t truly understand this man, yet he seemed to know everything about her.
This understanding filled her with deeper fear.
Bi Shanyu turned his head, his gaze shifting downward. “I think you must feel the weight of the bomb in your hand now, right?”
“I don’t need you to worry about it!” Xu Shuang exclaimed, taking two steps back, regretting having this conversation with the man.
“I am helping you.” However, Bi Shanyu calmly threw away the cigarette, extinguished the butt with his foot, and said, “I have a method that can solve your problem…”
At noon, inside Huadu Central Bureau, the atmosphere was exceptionally serious as a major battle was about to reach its decisive moment.
In the criminal investigation department, Director Tan was giving the final mobilization speech, “In this operation, we may be facing four main culprits, and there could be around ten other accomplices involved in unrelated cases. Based on the information obtained from an interrogated temporary helper found by Song Lan’en, these people may place bombs in the Huadu urban area this afternoon.”
As he spoke, Director Tan’s gaze swept across several elite police officers.
“So everyone must be vigilant. This is a crucial afternoon, and you must give it your all! In addition, the SWAT bomb disposal team will join us in this operation. While we are in action, we must also be careful about our personal safety.”
The teams dispersed in an organized manner, conducting inspections throughout the city.
To ensure effective cooperation, the teams were divided into two groups: internal and external. The command center was set up at the Central Bureau, responsible for data queries and electronic monitoring. Su Hui and Director Tan remained there to oversee the operation.
The external command center was located in the patrol car where Lu Junchi was stationed, with both sides in constant contact, exchanging information.
Everyone was tense, like tightly stretched strings.
In the command center, over a dozen monitoring screens were continuously switching and flashing, electronic eyes keeping watch over various corners of the city. Various messages were transmitted through the communication channels.
“Captain Lu, based on Xu Shuang’s purchase records, we have confirmed that their hiding place might be an old warehouse on Jinyu Road. The local sub-bureau has already checked it out and found recent signs of habitation, but the people have already left. Xu Shuang’s car is also parked nearby and hasn’t been driven away.”
“Can you determine the time they left?”
“We checked the nearby surveillance footage, and they left about half an hour ago.”
They were just half an hour late, narrowly missing these people…
Lu Junchi said, “Retrieve all nearby surveillance footage, using the warehouse as the origin point, and check all transportation options to identify the places they might have gone to!”
The police quickly found some traces, including retrieving footage of their departure from roadside cameras.
“Song Lan’en got into a taxi with license plate number H3569. We have already contacted the driver. He got off near Sanqing Stone, and then Dai Yuansheng got into another car…”
“Song Lan’en was seen near Yuma Road and then changed to another taxi. We are still searching…”
“What about Xu Shuang and Bi Shanyu?”
“These two individuals left on foot.”
“What about the others?”
“The people Song Lan’en contacted through the website are being investigated and monitored based on their connections.”
“Are all personnel in position at the city landmarks?”
“There are plainclothes officers near the city landmarks, K-9 units are conducting inspections at critical intersections, and multiple bomb disposal containers have been deployed throughout the city.”
In the command center, the tense atmosphere was filled with conversations and keyboard sounds.
Su Hui sat at the desk, looking at the images and messages coming in from various sources.
With his fingers interlaced, he furrowed his brow slightly, deep in thought.
Where would Bi Shanyu and Song Lan’en ultimately choose as their final location?