Chen Shi picked up the ashes on the ground and looked at it. He remarked, "It should have been burnt last night."
Lin Dongxue said, "The two must be in this village. Elder Sister, is anyone renting a warehouse or granary in the village?"
"There’s a granary to the west of the village. It was formerly used by the public to store grain, but it was later abandoned and rented out to the two rice collectors..." The peasant woman collecting the rice looked at the ground, "Was the rice not good this year? Even so, they shouldn’t waste it. Wasting food will incur the wrath of Heaven, haii!"
Lin Dongxue glanced at Chen Shi excitedly, and Chen Shi said, "I’ll park the car nearby and we’ll keep a low profile. If they’re still here, we’ll call for reinforcements."
There was a large white building on the west side of the village, surrounded by a circle of birch trees. The words "Open flames are strictly forbidden in the warehouse” were painted on the wall. This was the granary. As soon as they approached it, Lin Dongxue took out her gun. Chen Shi glanced through the window. "It's empty. They’ve moved the things."
"Then the missing police... Hope they haven’t been murdered!" Lin Dongxue expressed concern. The two policemen had been missing for four or five days. The local police station was going crazy from anxiety and called the city bureau every day to press for updates.
The door of the granary wasn’t even locked. When they pushed the door and walked in, there was a smell of rice and dust. Some broken woven bags were left lying on the ground. There were footprints in the dust. The two tried not to damage the footprints. Chen Shi picked up a small leaf and smelled it. It was impossible to confirm whether it was a rice leaf or marijuana just based on the smell.
"Old Chen, there’s another room here."
Lin Dongxue opened a small door and the two walked into a small room on the side. Lin Dongxue suddenly screamed when she saw a man in a police uniform hanging from the beam of the room. When her eyes adjusted to the darkness in the room, she realized that it was a dummy woven from rice stalks wearing a police uniform. This was a prank left by the rice collectors.
Chen Shi brought down the dummy, checked the number on the police uniform, and asked, "Are these the clothes of one of the missing policemen?"
"Yes, this number belongs to the local police."
"I have a question. Were they carrying guns?"
"No, they were only mediating civil disputes that day, so they wouldn't be carrying guns."
"That's good... These two people are really outrageous to be playing such a prank. Unexpectedly, they didn't think of using the identities of the policemen to escape."
"Using the identities of the policemen?"
"Put on the police uniforms, drive the police car pretending to be transporting important items, and send the marijuana and themselves out of the city, so it will be difficult for us to trace."
"This is your outsider’s opinion. These two people have guilty consciences, so how would they dare to do such a thing?"
"Where are they now? The people aren’t the key. The key is the marijuana. Although that batch of marijuana is less than the rice, there’s still several tons of it. Where are they going to store it?"
"Let’s go to the village to ask around!"
Chen Shi thought for a while and said, "Look for those few rice farmers in the village!"
There should have been five rice farmers in Sima Village, but three of them weren’t there. They got lucky when they found the fourth house. An half-dressed uncle with eye bags opened the door. When he saw the police officer's ID, he immediately sobered up and asked, "How can I help?"
"Chu Wei and Luo Chuanlong. Do you know these two people?"
"Yes, they collect rice and are renting a granary in the village..." The uncle seemed to be rather unsure of himself.
There was some movement within the house. Chen Shi looked through the doorway and asked, "There’s someone inside?"
"It’s my mistress. Mistress..." The uncle blushed. "The people in the village have loose lips, so please don't tell anyone else."
"Can you contact these two people?" Chen Shi asked again.
The uncle left for a while, came out with his mobile phone, and said, "It seems that I can't get through to them. Do you want to go to the other villages to have a look? They’re collecting rice everywhere during this period, so their whereabouts aren’t certain."
"We’ll go, but you have to tell us everything you know about them." Chen Shi's gaze sharpened.
The uncle hesitated, "Aren't they just rice collectors? What is there to say..."
"How much do you earn in a year? Has any of the rice farmers ever disappeared? Have you ever tasted the rice grown in your own field?" Chen Shi stared into the uncle’s eyes.
The uncle shed cold sweat. "No... I don't know what you’re talking about. I’m just farming at home as I’m supposed to. You’re making it seem like you’re interrogating a criminal!"
It was almost the same rhetoric as the uncle in the other village, such words have become a shield for the consciences of these rice harvesters. They didn’t know it yet, but many of them would face legal punishment in the near future.
"Are the rice collectors in the village right now?" Chen Shi changed his method and tried to gather information by probing.
"No, they’re not here."
"Did you meet with them yesterday?"
Chen Shi could feel clearly that he was starting to panic.
"Did they ask you to do anything when they left?"
The uncle breathed a sigh of relief, but Chen Shi said, "I'm sorry, but we have to search your home."
"Why? I didn't break the law."
The uncle frowned but finally gave in. The two walked into the courtyard and checked every room. When they got to the bedroom, a woman sitting on the bed covered her head with the quilt and asked, "Did he break the law?"
"Are you from the village?" Lin Dongxue asked.
"No, I’m from another village..."
"What do you do?"
"Farming... Did he break the law?"
"I can't answer this question. By the way, your lover is rich, right?"
"He’s usually quite liberal with money. I asked him where the money came from. He said that he grows an excellent rice variety, so he earns a little more than others."
"Did anyone look for him last night?" Chen Shi asked.
"I don't know. I only came here this morning. My man only went to work in the city this morning." After thinking about it, the woman said again. "We quarreled this morning."
"Why?" Lin Dongxue asked.
"I opened up the cellar when he went out to buy cigarettes since I wanted to get a piece of wild boar meat to stir-fry and eat. When he came back, he scolded me. I don't know why he was so nervous. Is there a dead person hidden in it?" The woman's tone was laced with indignation.
"Where’s the cellar?"
Part of the quilt was raised, and the woman pointed in a certain direction with her hand, "Move that chest of drawers in the house."
After acquiring this important piece of information accidentally, the two of them went to move the furniture. Sure enough, there was a wooden door underneath. Chen Shi opened it, revealing a staircase. When he walked down, Lin Dongxue asked, "What do you see?"
Lin Dongxue ran down, and there were some vegetables and cured meat in the cellar which was less than four square meters in size. She asked him where the corpse was, and Chen Shi pointed to the cured meat. "This is it."
Lin Dongxue punched him. "How can you make this kind of joke?"
Chen Shi found that the vegetables on the ground were rotten with smelly fluids seeping out, causing the whole cellar to be filled with a strange smell. He randomly picked up a vegetable in his hand and noticed that it was covered with a thin layer of plastic film underneath the vegetables. There was a large bundle of brown leaves under the thin film.
The two exchanged glances in surprise. Chen Shi said, "Cannabis leaves!"
Chen Shi swept the rotten vegetables onto the ground, and underneath were all cannabis leaves that totaled tens of kilograms...
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