In a written testimony, a classmate mentioned how Gao Lei usually bullied Hanmeng. Lin Dongxue could hardly read it anymore. Bullying wasn’t a humane thing at all.
Lin Dongxue asked, "Hanmeng was bullied at school, so she should have always had injuries on her. Didn't her family ever ask about it?"
The police said, "They never asked. I heard that Gao Lei bullied her and she bit his hand in retaliation when she resisted. Gao Lei's family went to Hanmeng's house to settle this. Gao Lei’s oldest uncle ran a private enterprise in town. Their family was particularly powerful, so Hanmeng’s grandparents apologized and even gifted them things. They also slapped Hanmeng in the face and gave them a basket of eggs before they left."
"What kind of people are they?!" Lin Dongxue gritted her teeth.
"After Gao Lei died, the story that Hanmeng was an evil portent spread around the school. No one dared to approach her. She went from being bullied by everyone to a state of rejection by everyone. In a sense, it was a good thing for her. At least no one beat her." The police sighed.
"Did you go to school there too?" Chen Shi asked.
"Yes. There’s only this middle school in the town. All the children go to school there. I was in another class... Maybe it’s because I’ve always been curious and inquiring about things around me ever since I was a child that I became a policeman when I grew up."
Chen Shi showed him the burned photo. "Is she Hanmeng?"
"Yes, that's her. Haii, after so many years, I still can't forget the look in her eyes. She was like a lonely ghost in school and was always by herself. Looking back, I’m quite ashamed. I was also a heartless little boy at the time. As long as I heard my classmates say "Hanmeng is coming", I’d scream and run away with everyone. Now that I think about it, this kind of reaction would hurt a girl a lot! I never talked to her. The closest contact I had with her was when I saw her squatting by the lake, crying next to a drowned puppy after school. She heard me coming, turned her head around, and looked at me. I ran away in fright. Later, I asked a group of children to go there, but Hanmeng had already left. There was a mound on the ground. When I dug it out, it was a deformed puppy. I guess someone threw it out."
"Can you help us find the students in her class?" Chen Shi asked.
"The few who came in for the written testimonies aren’t here now. Few young people are willing to stay in our small and decrepit town. After graduation, they went to Long'an to develop their lives. Ah, yes, there’s one person I know the whereabouts of. It's Du Zilin."
"Are you friends with him?"
"No, no, we aren’t friends, but he’s too 'famous'. I will copy the address to you." The officer took out a small book and copied the address from it for the two of them.
The two continued to read the second file. This was the file of the suicide of Hanmeng’s grandparents. The police said that her grandparents participated in illegal fund-raising activities called Huibaili, which would return money every month, but in fact, it was done by swindlers. The swindlers got enough money and disappeared overnight. Many people in the town were deceived, and Hanmeng’s grandparents lost their life savings.
The file said that Hanmeng’s grandparents committed suicide by hanging themselves. The two were hung on a beam and their weight broke the beam. A wire passing through it broke, causing a fire and setting the house alight.
As the technology back then wasn’t advanced, the investigation concluded that it was suicide. Whether their suicide was causally related to being deceived was only the conjecture of the police and there was no evidence to support it.
In addition, on the night Hanmeng's grandparents died, Hanmeng disappeared and never appeared in the town again.
This case happened in 2002. Chen Shi asked, "Hammeng should have graduated in 2002. What was she doing then?"
"She didn’t do anything and just stayed at home, doing housework or something. Whenever I patrolled, I often saw her sitting in the yard peeling ginkgo. A food processing plant in the town bought these. It costs only two yuan per catty." The police shook his head. "At almost 20 years old, she was still thin, wearing that torn school uniform. I feel sad when I see her. What kind of life does this girl lead?"
"So, has she grown up?"
"What do you mean?"
"Has she always looked like a child, or did she eventually grow up?"
"She has to have grown up. How can anyone not grow up?! Don't look at her being thin and small. When she was sexually assaulted by Geo Erhu, she was brought to the bureau for forensic evaluation, and the forensic doctor confirmed that she had already developed secondary sexual characteristics and was an adult."
"What happened with that matter of sexual assault?"
"That incident may have been the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen since becoming a police officer. Gao Erhu is Gao Lei's cousin. One night, Hanmeng came to us in disheveled clothes and blood on her face to report the crime. We immediately caught Gao Erhu. Gao Erhu’s family tried to bail him out using their connections, but it didn’t work. Then, guess who came? Hanmeng’s grandparents! They actually said that Gao Erhu was Hanmeng’s fiance, and Hanmeng also confirmed this after lots of stammering. We could clearly see that the old couple were threatening Hanmeng with their eyes. She was so scared of them! The police told her that even if he was her fiancé, she could still sue him, although we all knew it was the Gao family who asked the grandparents to come forward to settle the matter. However, Hanmeng withdrew her testimony and denied being sexually assaulted, so the matter had to be let go... This happened one month before her grandparents committed suicide."
"Where is Gao Erhu now?"
"One year after this happened, he rode a motorcycle into a ravine and fell to his death. The investigation concluded that it was a simple accident. Don’t you think it’s strange? People who have offended Hanmeng died one after another. As a policeman, I probably shouldn't say this, but I always feel that there’s a mysterious power in this world that is protecting her... By the way, why did the police in your city suddenly investigate this? Did she show up in Long'an?"
Chen Shi shook his head. "We’re in the same mood as you now, and we find it weird beyond belief. Four of Hanmeng's classmates in Long'an died, but this time, it wasn’t an accident or suicide. We’re investigating the murderer."
"It wouldn’t be her, right?!" The policeman said with a shocked expression. "Aiya, this girl has such a miserable background. If you catch her, please be a bit kinder to her!"
"We know... By the way, can you take us to see her house?"
"That old house was gone a long time ago. It was burned down by the fire. Later, another house was built in its place. You can't see anything even if you went."
The two thanked the police officer and left the public security bureau. Lin Dongxue said, "I think this case is getting deeper and deeper. Does this girl really have any special powers?"
"I don't believe it. I think there’s someone next to her who is protecting her. This person has a superb technique. In that era of technological backwardness, they could have easily stayed hidden from the police."
The two had lunch in the town and went back to see Xin Bai. Xin Bai was already awake and cried in shock, "It's over. It’s over! I can't have that dream again!"
It was just as Chen Shi had guessed. "Of course you can't dream in a house alone."
"What do you mean?"
"Because you weren’t dreaming last night. You were hypnotized!"
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