When they heard Old Jia saying this, everyone was slightly shocked. Chen Shi asked, "Were the rice harvest collectors here during the day on the 17th?"
"Yes, they didn't leave until the rice was harvested on the evening of the 18th."
"How much is a ton of rice worth? They can't even earn a hundred yuan from a mu, but they actually stayed for three days?" Chen Shi felt incredulous.
"I don't know too much about it either. Maybe it was on their way. They usually finish the collection here and then go on to the next village to collect every year."
"They only collect that kind of rice?"
"No, no, all rice is collected, but perhaps due to the maturity period, they only collect Shennong No. 24 in the first phase and the other rice in the second."
Chen Shi glanced at the other police officers and said, "Let's investigate as originally planned."
Chen Shi and Lin Dongxue drove to the village where the rice collectors were located, about 50 kilometers away from Wangchenggang. On the way, Chen Shi listened to the radio to relieve his boredom, and Lin Dongxue lowered her seat to take a nap.
When they finally arrived, Chen Shi saw harvesting in progress. Agricultural machinery was neatly harvesting rice from the rice paddies. The two got out of the car to question the local farmers and learned that the rice harvest collectors had already left. Chen Shi asked, "Where did they go?"
"They should have gone to Village X!"
Looking at the high piles of rice in the open area, Chen Shi asked, "Was the rice they collected Shennong No. 24?"
"Yes, these two masters only accept this in the first phase, and they accept the other types in the second phase." The answer was exactly the same.
"How many people in the village plant Shennong No. 24?"
"Just a few households."
"I want to talk to them." Chen Shi handed out some cigarettes as a courtesy. A young guy got up to call them over.
Lin Dongxue asked, "Do you suspect there is a problem with Shennong No. 24?"
"I don't know. There’s still too little information right now... Oh yes, I forgot about this. Tell Xiaodong to take the rice to an expert for testing."
"I’ll contact him."
Lin Dongxue took out her mobile phone and found that new information had been posted in the chat group. She said, "Old Jia Number Four’s income has been checked. Look... this income should be normal. He built the house with money from the inheritance left to him by his father."
Old Jia Number Four, who also worked part-time in the town, earned about five to six thousand a month. There was really nothing suspicious.
"In addition, the two rice collectors, Chu Wei and Luo Chuanlong, also have very ordinary personal profiles."
"Let's talk about it when we see them in person!"
Afterwards, an uncle was brought over. He kept moving his head while talking to Chen Shi. Chen Shi thought he was suffering from stroke, but he was actually sneaking glances at Lin Dongxue.
The uncle had been cultivating Shennong No. 24 for five or six years. Apart from the slightly higher purchase price, there was nothing special about it. In terms of appearance, its rice ears were relatively small, but its leaves were particularly large.
"A few years ago, I saw that the rice ears were growing too small, so I trimmed the leaves, but the people who collected the rice came and asked me why I had cut the leaves, saying they didn’t want it anymore. I had a hard time persuading them to accept it, and they gave me a few hundred less. How annoying! After that, I realized that they collect the whole stalk. It doesn’t matter how small the rice ears are, so I don’t need to worry about it as much when planting this. There’s also no need to constantly fertilize and weed it. Just spray a little pesticide and it can be harvested and sold when the season comes."
Chen Shi was curious and asked, "We don't understand this very well. What are rice leaves good for?"
"I don’t know either, but I heard that there’s a kind of ornamental rice, which is not for eating, but for display. Or there are ones used for cooking, for example, rice leaves can be used to wrap meat. If they collect it, it must be of some use!"
"Have the rice harvest collectors always been Chu Wei and Luo Chuanlong? Dongxue, the photos..."
The uncle glanced at the ID photos and said, "Yes, it’s always been them!"
"I have another question. Did they give you any extra benefits or have any special requests while you planted this kind of rice?"
"No, no, it's just planting it and collecting it during the harvesting season. It’s all very ordinary."
Chen Shi noticed that the uncle's gaze was evasive.
After the uncle left, Lin Dongxue said, "There’s definitely a problem... Shall we stay in this village and continue to ask around, or find the rice collectors?"
"Distinguish the priority. Find the rice collectors first. This village can't run away anyway. It's the same if we come to investigate tomorrow."
The two rushed to the next village as fast as they could. The dozens of mus of fields in this village had already been harvested. Chen Shi saw the tire marks of the truck on the ground and said, "Damn, they’re gone again. Let’s go into the village and ask!"
There was a disco in the village, and the beat of the music came pulsing through the door. There seemed to be a lot of people there, so it was more convenient to inquire about things. Thus, the two walked in.
Under the dazzling lights, a bunch of young people were dancing. Upon seeing Lin Dongxue frowning, a guy stuck his tongue out, and danced around Lin Dongxue. He breathlessly asked, "Which village are you from?"
Lin Dongxue showed her ID and the boy's eyes suddenly widened. He continued dancing and disappeared into the crowd.
"It's too noisy. Let's go. Why did you want to come in?!" Lin Dongxue was full of regret.
"Yes, let's go to the village committee!" Chen Shi said.
When the two went out, they found someone following them. Chen Shi stood still and turned around. The young guy with long hair and a cigarette in his mouth also stopped. He wasn’t tall. He was only around 1.6 meters in height. He and Chen Shi stared at each other. All of a sudden, he grinned, "You guys are finally here. I know what you’re investigating!"
"What are we investigating?" Chen Shi asked back.
The two followed him in confusion, walking through the streets and alleys, and finally arrived at a barren hill. The young man pointed in front. "Under the locust tree. Dig it up. Dig it up. He’s been lying there for four years now, waiting for you to come!"
Then he stretched out his hand, "Where is my reward?"
The two of them looked blank and didn't know what he was talking about at all.
The young man took a shovel from the yard of a nearby residential house, walked under the locust tree and started digging. While digging, he kept giving Lin Dongxue meaningful glances. "Ten thousand or twenty thousand? I have already given you the corpse. It should be at least ten thousand! Aren't the police from the city always generous? Fuck!"
The guy lowered his head and looked as if he had seen a ghost. He dropped his shovel and ran. Lin Dongxue walked over suspiciously. Chen Shi asked what was inside, and she replied, "Nothing."
There was a sudden scream from the village. Someone was yelling "Murder." Chen Shi and Lin Dongxue looked at each other and hurried towards the direction of the voice. They saw a circle of people surrounding the entrance of the disco. They pushed through the crowd and saw the guy from just now collapsed on the ground. His throat had been slit and blood was gurgling out, but he was still on his last breath.
Chen Shi hurriedly knelt down and pressed on his wound. The young man’s eyes widened. His face became paler as the blood drained from his body. He said with difficulty, "Rice..."
Then he died.
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