Several students from different grades finally connected together. They intersected at a certain point in their lives.
Qiao Ze felt a warmth in his chest. He felt they were getting closer to the answer. “Teachers, can you provide more detailed information about this incident?”
The middle-aged female teacher thought for a moment and said, “It seems that over a month ago, a production crew came. I saw them on campus. There weren’t many of them, maybe one photographer, one director, and a few production assistants. They were shooting all around Wanhu City, saying they wanted to capture the lives of the people here. In the end, they mentioned wanting to film the lives of the students here as well. I think the students agreed because it was an extracurricular activity for them. They posted relevant registration information on the school bulletin board.”
The young female teacher added, “There were also posts on online forums promoting this. Principal Wang supported this initiative, and many students were interested. However, the director and production assistants screened the participants. They needed students with special skills. It seems the students went to shoot for a week after school.”
She searched on her phone for a while and showed a post to Qiao Ze. “It’s this one…”
Qiao Ze took a look. The recruitment was specifically for high school students from Wanhu City No. 1 High School, regardless of gender, with a requirement to reside in Wanhu City, possess special skills, and have a good appearance and standard Mandarin.
The male teacher regretted it a bit. “If I had known, I wouldn’t have let Tao Yingxu go! It must have been during that time that he came into contact with some dubious people from society. Perhaps those directors and screenwriters are the culprits, and those students were kidnapped by them…”
Filming a documentary is an activity favored by young people with strong desires for self-expression. They found this matter mysterious and interesting, which led these students to meet some outsiders from society, which seemed reasonable.
Su Hui extracted relevant information and shared it in the workgroup, then said, “Qiao Ze, please quickly check if these people have any connection to today’s live broadcast and find out who else among the participating students is involved in this.”
He turned to the other teachers and said, “Teachers, please also ask your colleagues if any students from their classes participated in the filming of this documentary.”
The three teachers left the meeting room relieved and hurriedly.
Su Hui looked down at his phone. After the conversation just now, it was already 9:45 PM, and there were less than fifteen minutes left until the end of the live broadcast.
Su Hui called Lu Junchi and briefly updated him on the progress.
Su Hui was cautious in his words, “Qiao Ze is already investigating, and the list of students involved in the documentary is being compiled. We still don’t know if the anchor has any connection to this incident.”
Lu Junchi responded, “Understood. You continue to follow this lead.”
Su Hui held the phone to his ear and could hear Lu Junchi breathing heavily. He asked, “Have you found anything there yet?”
“No,” Lu Junchi replied, “We have searched most areas, but we haven’t found anything yet.”
Su Hui then asked, “How is the work going on Na Xuehai’s side?”
“Zheng Bai is following that lead. Director Tan personally spoke to Na Xuehai just now.”
The Major Crimes Unit was limited in manpower, and it was better for Director Tan to take charge on that end rather than Lu Junchi reporting back and forth.
Su Hui felt some concern. “Conducting a press conference may not necessarily be a good thing. Once the media gets involved, the variables in the case will increase, and everything will become more complicated.”
He had a bad premonition that the culprit was anticipating such a situation.
“I’ll remind them,” Lu Junchi paused and said to Su Hui, “Take care of yourself.”
Su Hui lowered his voice and said, “I’m fine here. You stay safe too.” Then he quickly hung up the phone.
After putting down the phone, Su Hui took out a tissue from his pocket and covered his lips, coughing repeatedly. The coughing fit was intense, making his vision blur.
Qiao Ze, who was beside him, was alarmed. “Professor Su, let me get you some water.”
Su Hui was about to say it was unnecessary, but his cough was uncontrollable. Before he could speak, Qiao Ze ran out.
Qiao Ze quickly returned, running back with a paper cup and placing it on the table. “Professor Su, the water is still warm. Drink some quickly…”
Su Hui supported his forehead with his hand, feeling a slight fever. As he closed his eyes, all the clues in his mind became clear, but his physical discomfort hindered his thinking. He broke out in a cold sweat, feeling a chill.
Qiao Ze noticed his pale complexion and became worried. “Professor Su, are you okay… Should I inform Captain Lu?”
Su Hui got through the bout of coughing, opened his eyes, picked up the water cup, and drank while looking down. “It’s just an old problem. I’m fine. Don’t tell Captain Lu. The case is more important.”
It was a crucial moment in the case. He couldn’t afford to distract Lu Junchi at this time.
In the city of Huadu, this night was particularly noisy and cold. The whole city was stirred by the live broadcast event tonight.
Someone in the media group shared information and found the address of Na Xuehai’s house. So everyone notified their friends and relatives. In less than an hour, dozens of journalists received the news and gathered outside the house of Na Xuehai, the owner of that company.
It was a lavishly decorated three-story villa located in a well-off neighborhood in Huadu. The floor plan of the house had already been dug out and posted online. With a total area of over 400 square meters, in a city where land was scarce and expensive, the price would undoubtedly be in the millions, making it a standard luxury home.
Those outside the door included not only journalists from official and well-known media outlets but also some tabloid and even self-media reporters. When they heard the news, they rushed over.
Some curious onlookers who lived nearby also gathered downstairs.
The garden below the villa was already packed with people, and more were continuously arriving.
Everyone was scrambling to get firsthand news and information. Some were so eager to report that they couldn’t wait and started live streaming.
With the temperature dropping today, people who were underdressed trembled in the cold.
As the time approached, the journalists grew anxious.
“Why is there still no news? Are the police not going to hold a press conference?”
“Do they really intend to make him publicly admit the crime, as that anchor said?”
“Even if they hold a press conference, the anchor might not release the hostage.”
“Could it be that Na Xuehai hasn’t completed the psychological manipulation by this time?”
“It’s not enough to interrogate for just one hour normally, and the situation is more likely to be bad than good.”
A young police officer maintained order at the door, saying, “Please don’t act disorderly and refrain from asking random questions.”
The media personnel, who were not ones to hold back, got fired up upon hearing this. “Are you treating us as mere tools by not allowing us to ask questions?”
“We came here in the middle of the night, not to cover up the truth.”
“You can’t silence us with your words.”
“Guilty is guilty, and innocent is innocent!”
The young police officer’s remark stirred up a hornet’s nest, leaving him frightened as he shrank back. The media professionals were relentless, becoming even more vigorous.
“Why isn’t your police force taking action? Are we, the media, supposed to act as accomplices?”
“Where are your superiors? Why are just a few of you police officers here trying to deceive us?”
“If you want to make an official media announcement, shouldn’t it be done properly? What is this current situation?”
There was no formal press conference procedure, no quota verification, no detailed arrangements. Everything was rushed, and the scene was chaotic.
Just as they were talking, the door of the villa opened, and several people came out.
“They’re here! They’re here!” All the questions were forgotten in an instant. The media swarmed, and camera flashes twinkled in the night sky. The live broadcast cameras were aimed at them.
Everything was too rushed, so rushed that neither the leaders, the police, nor the media were adequately prepared.
No one had rehearsed, yet they were thrust onto the stage like ducks being forced onto a shelf, hastily beginning.
At 9:55 PM, Na Xuehai finally appeared at the front door of his house.
Zheng Bai and several other police officers stood behind him. They were the first to arrive after the incident. Xia Mingxi had found some relevant information about Na Xuehai in the city bureau’s archives, and the internet had thoroughly exposed him.
Initially, Na Xuehai didn’t want to step forward and face the media. It was only after speaking with the leaders of the central bureau that he finally opened up.
However, time was running out at this point.
Standing in front of dozens of media representatives, surrounded by camera flashes, Na Xuehai hesitated and unfolded a small piece of paper. His face was covered in sweat, his hands trembling, causing the paper in his hand to make a rustling sound.
“I… I admit that I have committed some crimes. I previously sold substandard building materials to construction companies, which caused a building collapse and resulted in casualties… I request a thorough investigation into this incident… I request a thorough investigation into my company.”
This time, there was relatively more time, and netizens had thoroughly exposed him. They had already listed all the projects his company was responsible for. They discovered that the collapse incident was related to Na Xuehai, and surprisingly, Na Xuehai had collaborated with several well-known construction companies. Who knows how many buildings had become dangerous structures.
A reporter asked, “Seven people died, and you call it ‘some casualties’?”
“If you don’t come forward and disclose it, are you planning to hide forever?”
“I see that you also collaborated with Di Sanjian. Is there any connection between you and the recent bridge collapse incident?”
“Do you admit that it was the non-compliant building materials you sold that caused the quality issues?”
A more pointed question was asked, “So, were the temporary workers who were sentenced at that time just scapegoats?”
“Please disclose the list of developers you collaborated with! Give the public the truth!”
“Some netizens have raised concerns about you engaging in illegal activities with underage girls. How do you explain this, sir?”
“Someone has reported that your building materials company has engaged in tax evasion. Do you admit to this?”
One by one, the questions came like sharp swords.
“I… I…” Na Xuehai was speechless.
In the midst of the chaotic crowd, an egg flew and hit Na Xuehai directly on the forehead, leaving him dazed.
Someone shouted, “The building collapse killed seven people, yet you are here enjoying a luxurious villa. The shoddy building materials you sold have harmed countless people! You earned the hard-earned money of ordinary citizens. Social scum like you should die!”
“That’s right! Scum like you should die!”
“It’s because of people like you that there are so many housing quality issues!”
“Why is a scum like you still roaming free?”
Zheng Bai was already unsure about the situation. It was the leaders who insisted on bringing Na Xuehai in front of the cameras, and they pulled him out at the last moment.
Just now, Lu Junchi also reminded him to manage the scene properly. Seeing the situation getting out of control, Zheng Bai frowned and said, “Maintain order.”
Then he stepped forward, standing in front of Na Xuehai, and addressed the media, “Stop broadcasting. He has already confessed to the crimes. Our police force will thoroughly investigate the matter and release all the facts. We will investigate it clearly and give everyone an explanation.”
The media’s emotions were also stirred up. “It has been so long, and no one has taken any action. A building collapsed, people died, and only the temporary workers were held accountable. If it weren’t for this revelation, we wouldn’t have known. Does your police force still have credibility?”
“You have no ability to catch criminals in normal situations, but you are quite timely in protecting scum.”
“Do the police know or not know about these matters?”
“Who is protecting these unscrupulous building material vendors?”
One media outlet mocked, “Isn’t this press conference only being held because they were forced to? It was exposed online long ago that this person is a distant relative of a high-ranking official. After tonight, they will probably settle the matter quietly, right?!”
Zheng Bai lowered his voice and said, “Our mission tonight is to save lives. I hope everyone prioritizes saving lives. The results of the investigation will be made public later…”
Some media outlets turned off their live broadcasts after hearing this, but there were still a few media outlets that wanted to keep the excitement going.
Na Xuehai, being pulled back by the police, wiped the egg off his face and suddenly became furious. He shook off the hands of the police officer.
The half-hour of persuasion he received earlier was completely wasted. He tore up the paper in his hand and threw it into the crowd, saying, “I came out here to save face for the police station. Since you don’t appreciate it, go ahead and investigate then! In that project, from top to bottom, who didn’t take a share? When it reached me, there was only so much left. Do you expect me to sell substandard materials and cover the losses with your money? The building collapsed after a few years of use. Who knows if there were other violations? Why should I bear the blame for a project gone wrong? Damn it! As for the accusation of me keeping mistresses, did all those women sleep with me? That was love!”
This unscrupulous businessman had reached the point where his villainy was ingrained in his bones. The reason he said those few words earlier was neither because of a sudden conscience nor to save lives; he was pushed to the edge of a cliff. His name was mentioned, and that’s why he was pushed out reluctantly and stood at the forefront.
He believed that there were many unscrupulous businessmen in the world, and he wasn’t the only one selling substandard building materials. He was just unlucky.
Na Xuehai looked at the reporters, their mouths and faces relentless.
“This incident happened almost two years ago, and I’ve been living in fear. But you all are at peace. Do you really know nothing about the building collapse at that time? Why didn’t you report it back then? Why are you here tonight? You’re not here for justice! You’re here for news, for views, for sensationalism! Don’t portray yourselves as so noble! The news articles you write can’t be published without the approval of your superiors! You are accomplices, the executioners who commit atrocities without bloodshed.”
Zheng Bai, watching the situation getting out of control in the front and the fire starting in the back, hoped for a thorough investigation of the matter, but he also feared angering the anchor. He quickly said to a few police officers beside him, “What are you waiting for? Quickly take him back!”
A female reporter shouted, “If you don’t confess your crimes, you are killing people!”
As Na Xuehai was being pulled away, someone tried to cover his mouth, but he still shouted with a strained neck, “You’re also accomplices! If you have the ability, go and arrest that perverted live-streamer! I have nothing to confess! If you have evidence, I’d rather go to jail. I didn’t kill anyone! Why do you attribute the loss of lives to me?”
The live broadcast of the media ended at this point.
In the live stream room, the spectators witnessed this scene, and the comments fell silent. People didn’t know what expression or language to use to describe this incident.
It seemed like everyone went on to do what they were supposed to do individually, but when taken together, the whole situation seemed bizarre, absurd, like a farce, yet this kind of farce unfolded in reality before their eyes.
Moreover, upon careful consideration, it seemed that each piece of the puzzle made sense, things they saw in their daily lives,
but nobody had ever raised these issues to hold people accountable and connect the dots.
Time was running out.
A hand appeared in the live studio, reaching for a nearby rope…
Qiao Ze had been anxiously making phone calls, trying to establish contact. He put down his phone and said, “Professor Su, I managed to contact the director and cameraman of the documentary. They are currently out of town and claim to have no connection to this incident. The director confirmed that they recruited some students and conducted brief interviews. The documentary is still in post-production, and they will send me all the footage and the participant list, but it will take a while…”
Su frowned. Could it be that their previous speculations and assumptions were wrong, and the documentary directors and cameramen had nothing to do with tonight’s events?
It felt like a possibility had been blocked…
But why were the students who were killed tonight all previously involved in this documentary project?
It couldn’t be a mere coincidence.
Qiao Ze himself wasn’t sure.
The entire case had developed in a mysterious manner at every step.
Qiao Ze noticed that Su Hui’s face was still pale. He looked down, staring blankly at the screen of his phone, repeatedly watching the previous video.
Worried, Qiao Ze called out again, “Professor Su…”
He thought Su Hui might be affected because the police might not be able to prevent the third murder in time.
Su Hui had been focused earlier and didn’t hear him speak. Now, he finally heard and coughed a few times before softly saying, “None of the three of them cried…”
“What?” Qiao Ze leaned closer.
Suddenly, Su Hui understood something. It was the strange feeling he had sensed before. Now he finally found the answer.
He repeated, “These three students, none of them cried…”
Qiao Ze held the tablet and paused for a moment. “Yes… despite struggling, none of the three of them cried…”
Crying is a natural instinctive response in humans. They cry when they are frightened or overwhelmed with sadness.
Teenage boys and girls, abducted by strangers and brought to an unfamiliar environment, about to be executed in front of tens of thousands of people. Sobbing in pain, fear, and terror would perhaps be the most natural reaction.
At the moment of impending death, what were they thinking?
Why didn’t they cry?
Su Hui suddenly remembered his previous speculation: multiple perpetrators…
Until now, the victims were three high school students who disappeared on Friday afternoon.
Even if the culprit had a car and accomplices, how many people would it take to control so many high school students, take them away separately, without others noticing?
The students had all been involved in the documentary filming…
Su Hui thought of a possibility, but he couldn’t be certain.
Certified member of the IIO(International Introverts Organization), PhD holder in Overthinking and Ghosting, Spokesperson for BOBAH(Benefits of Being a Homebody), Founder of SFA(Salted Fish Association), Brand Ambassador for Couch Potato fall line Pajama set.