Lin Dongxue showed Chen Shi a photo. It had been taken by a traffic camera. The footage showed a driver sitting in the car, who looked very similar to He Jun. Lin Dongxue said, "I didn’t think that he would be speeding and be recorded on the way back from stealing the paintings."
Xu Xiaodong leaned over. "It’s so blurry. Would he admit to it?"
"It should be possible to use technical means to make it clearer," Lin Dongxue said.
Chen Shi glanced at the pawn shop and suddenly said, "Why are the lights on the second floor always on? The sun is already about to rise... No, let's go and have a look."
"We’ll seek them out now? Shouldn’t we wait for the search warrant first?" Lin Dongxue said.
"They know we’re here anyway, so we don't have to wait."
With that said, Chen Shi got out of the car and walked towards the pawn shop. The two followed and arrived in front of the pawn shop. Chen Shi knocked on the door and nobody answered. He placed his ear against the roller shutter door to listen. There weren’t any sounds inside. He had a vague bad premonition in his heart.
Without another word, he immediately used a tool to pry open the roller shutter door, and it opened with a ‘chaak’ noise. The pawnshop was still a mess, and the owners hadn’t cleaned it up.
"They wouldn’t have..." Before finishing this sentence, Chen Shi immediately rushed in and shouted from within a room, "Hurry over!"
When Lin Dongxue and Xu Xiaodong entered the bedroom, they saw that the window’s original aluminium railings had been sawn open. The opening that was created was definitely sufficient for a person to pass through. Under the window was an alleyway. Chen Shi poked his head out and looked down. He saw that there were footprints left in the muddy alley from the two’s escape.
"Bastards!" He was so angry that he punched the wall with his fist.
Fleeing meant that they had admitted to their crimes. He thought that these two people would never do this kind of thing, but Chen Shi had miscalculated the human heart. After experiencing the series of incidents last night, the two were already jittery. The police and the underworld were like two bombs that could explode at any time. They couldn't bear the tremendous psychological pressure and chose to escape.
They must have carried the paintings with them, but it was impossible to bring them all, so there should be some paintings that were still here or destroyed by them. Hopefully, it wasn’t the latter.
"I'll go after them!" Xu Xiaodong volunteered.
"No, they’ve fled to somewhere far away long ago." Chen Shishi ran his fingers up the oxidized metallic paint on the windowsill and instructed, "Dongxue, call your brother!"
Later, Lin Qiupu and Peng Sijue brought people over to search. The various clues left behind confirmed that the two of them had sawed the window open and escaped at 3:00 in the morning. They had run to an abandoned compound nearby, and fled in a vehicle parked there. That vehicle had appeared at the scene where the paintings had been stolen.
Lin Qiupu got people to communicate with the traffic department, to arrange a net of justice that would ensnare them.
"We must not let He Jingjing get away with it this time!" Lin Qiupu said.
In addition, when the police searched the scene, they found a hidden compartment behind a bookcase. A large number of ancient paintings were densely packed in the space sandwiched by two wooden boards. Lin Qiupu unrolled one of them randomly. It was from the stolen batch.
This discovery was very exciting. Lin Dongxue suggested, "These paintings were extorted by Lie Guoxiao anyway, so wouldn’t it be better to return them to the rightful owners, or simply donate them to a museum?"
Lin Qiupu shook his head. "Even if we all know that their origins are shady, they were stolen from Lie Guoxiao, so we have to return them to Lie Guoxiao. We can’t deal with these lost items as we wish."
"Why? To put it bluntly, Lie Guoxiao had also stolen them!"
Lin Qiupu smiled bitterly. "Dongxue, what the police represent isn’t kindness, but justice. Justice must follow impartial procedures. It’s not called justice if it’s carried out subjectively based on personal wishes! After the paintings are returned to him, we will continue to investigate the matter of his extorting paintings from people. Only after there is clear evidence can these things truly return to their original owners."
Lin Dongxue nodded reluctantly, "Okay!"
Up in the old building opposite the pawn shop, a man in a peaked cap was watching everything in the house with high-powered binoculars. He took out his mobile phone and dialed a number, "Master Lie, the police have found your paintings. It was in the Taiyang pawn shop... The man and woman? They seem to have fled... Understood!"
The arrest warrants for the two were issued soon after. The traffic police, local civil police and criminal police searched for them all over the city, and three days passed in a blink of an eye.
Late that night, He Jun, who was eating stir-fried rice cakes in an unfinished building, put down his disposable chopsticks gloomily. He said, "It's both spicy and salty. I don't want to eat this kind of stuff. I want to eat meat!"
"Bear with it. There are police everywhere. If you think it’s too salty, then drink some water." He Jingjing, who was sitting cross-legged opposite him, handed over a bottle of mineral water.
After taking a sip, He Jun flew into a rage and splashed the water everywhere. "This is tap water. It's tap water!"
He Jingjing said helplessly, "Convenience stores all have security cameras, and we don't have much cash left."
"Don't we still have these?!" He Jun grabbed the three thin cardboard tubes on the ground. "One of them is worth tens of millions. Why should I beg for food while protecting these golden rice bowls? I want to eat meat. I want to drink alcohol. I want to smoke. I don’t care, I’ll exchange them for money right now. There must be a pawn shop owner who will be willing to carry out this transaction. This is more valuable than the rewards for our arrest. Even if they take advantage of our situation and only give us one million, one hundred thousand, ten thousand, or even one thousand yuan, it’s no problem!"
"Come back!" He Jingjing tried to catch hold of him.
He Jun violently shook off He Jingjing's hand. She lost her balance and fell onto the floor, but she didn't move. He Jun thought she was hurt and hurriedly stepped forward to check on her. He only saw He Jingjing's shoulders shaking as she sobbed.
"My dear, don't be upset. I'm not angry with you."
Seeing her cry, He Jun's heart softened, and he also shed tears.
In these past three days, they hadn’t washed their faces, brushed their teeth or changed their clothes. They hid here and there. They immediately hid whenever they saw people in uniforms. They even hid in big trash bins and sewers. The vehicle had to be abandoned because it was too conspicuous.
Both had been very poor when they were young, but they lived a good life later. Now, their current life was unbearable.
"I told you that we shouldn’t have fled. If we flee, it’s the equivalent to telling the police that we had done all of it." He Jingjing complained.
"Don't talk about it anymore!" He Jun no longer wanted to argue about this issue. "I can't stand being stalked by the police and harassed by people from the underworld. I can't stand it for a second. I would have gone crazy if we hadn’t fled!"
"Then can you stand it now?"
He Jun shook his head. "Let’s exchange it for money! We have three paintings anyway. It doesn’t matter if we exchange one for some emergency money. I know a place where an old man specializes in helping people sell stolen goods. He and Uncle He were old friends, but ever since Uncle He died, I haven't contacted him for seven years. The police wouldn't think of him."
He Jingjing only cried.
"When we’ve exchanged it for money tonight, we’ll find a safe place to take a bath, eat and make love. Then we’ll eat and make love again. Do you want to eat barbecued meat? Fatty and lean pork belly grilled until the fat drips and dipped in sauce, along with a bottle of Bing Xue Hua. After doing the deed, lighting up a Yuxi cigarette… Oh my heavens, after eating this meal, it’d be worth it even if they immediately arrested and executed me with a firing squad."
"Don't say such unlucky words!" He Jingjing covered his mouth. "Rather than barbecued meat, I’d like to eat hot and sour beef with enoki mushrooms, steamed pork belly with preserved mustard greens, sautéed pork tenderloin with Chinese flower rolls..."
"Okay, let's order a bunch!"
Two ashen faces looked at each other and smiled. The fugitives had reached a consensus.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter