Chapter 33 - Military-Grade Spade
The object in Commander Jin’s hand also caused Tang Can’s expression to subtly change. However, he quickly recovered. He smiled at Commander Jin and said, “Reporter Shen was just looking for that! She thought she had accidentally dropped it earlier. Who would have thought the stupid fool had taken it?” He looked at Shen Yu meaningfully.
Receiving the hint, Shen Yu immediately composed herself. Instead of taking the object immediately, she first took out the handkerchief Tang Can had given her from her pocket. After spreading the handkerchief to cover her hand, she let Commander Jin place the object into the cloth. She carefully wrapped up the object into the handkerchief. She didn’t want to leave any fingerprints on the object that could cover up crucial clues.
Commander Jin didn't think anything was out of the ordinary. Many young women had phobias of touching dirty objects. It wasn’t unusual to him that Shen Yu wanted to keep her hands clean. The branch secretary also wasn’t surprised at her actions. In his mind, all of the young ladies who lived in cities liked to keep things clean. Only Tang Can knew her true intentions in using the handkerchief. His eyes were full of appreciation as he looked at her.
After they finished eating dinner at the hospitable branch secretary's house, Commander Jin and Xiao Qiu went back to their families in the village to rest for the night. Shen Yu had trouble falling asleep so she asked Tang Can if he would accompany her around the village for a walk. The branch secretary thought that the two young people were a well-matched couple. If they wanted to spend some extra time alone, who was he to stop them? He grinned at the two of them. Since the village didn’t have any street lamps, he asked his plump wife to find a flashlight for them so they could avoid tripping and falling in the dark.
Tang Can smiled and thanked the man. He held the flashlight in his hand and left the house with Shen Yu.
They had told the couple that they were planning on walking around the outskirts of the village, but that was a lie. Their true destination was Song Geng’s house.
After finding out that there was something fishy about Song Geng’s death from the two siblings that morning, they needed to find more information. The clues that they had were not enough. They hoped they could find more information in Song Geng’s house.
However, neither of them had any big expectations. The funeral rites and arrangements had been conducted at his house. Many people had come into the building, so it was unlikely they could find anything obvious left over. It would be hard for them to find definitive evidence that someone had murdered the old man and then hung him to make it look like a suicide.
When they reached the run-down, old house, Shen Yu could see that there was a light on inside the house. She grabbed Tang Can’s arm and used her free hand to point at the room. Tang Can also noticed the light and motioned to Shen Yu, silently telling her to stay and not move from her location. He swiftly went to the front door and found out that the rusty lock on the door had been opened. The door had been left ajar. He carefully creeped towards the door and then forcefully kicked it open. The young soldier rushed inside.
Standing outside of the house, Shen Yu could hear Tang Can yelling and the sounds of a fight. She hastily looked around her for something she could use as a weapon, like a thick stick, and contemplated running in to help him. Just as she found a suitable branch, she heard a loud clash that was followed by a noisy clang, as if something heavy had fallen. She could also hear Tang Can yelling again. As she pelted towards the house, she saw a human-shaped shadow crawl out of a nearby window and then disappear.
Tang Can leapt out of the window and started to chase after the mystery miscreant. When he saw that he wouldn’t be able to catch up, he turned around and went back to where Shen Yu was waiting. Shen Yu could see that he no longer had the flashlight in his hand, but he was holding something else. In the darkness, she couldn’t make out the object clearly.
“I let him escape,” sighed Tang Can regretfully
Shen Yu didn’t think the entire trip was a loss. “At least we know for sure that our suspicions are true!”
Tang Can nodded and told Shen Yu to go into the room with him. The lights that were hastily added for the funeral had not been taken away yet. The young officer advised Shen Yu to be careful when going into the room and bent down to pick up the flashlight. He fumbled for the switch but soon found it. The flashlight turned on.
The light in the room was not very high, and it cast a hazy, yellow beam. In the dim light, Shen Yu saw with surprise that there were several holes dug in the ground. The holes seemed familiar. In fact, they looked very similar to the holes that thieves had made in her house when she was a kid.
“Come look at this!” Tang Can showed Shen Yu what he was holding in his hand. Shen Yu could finally tell that he was holding a piece of cloth; he must of snatched it from the intruder earlier. She took it from him and examined it carefully. Her eyes opened wide with shock. It was a rough piece of cyan colored cotton with a bit of hand embroidery in the corner.
“Looks like they’re not from the same group of people!” Shen Yu frowned, perplexed, and took out the object Commander Jin had given her. It was still wrapped in Tang Can’s handkerchief. Inside the cloth was a lipstick made from a luxury, overseas brand. Just one of those lipsticks cost around four to five hundred yuan. Even Shen Yu thought that it was too expensive to buy for herself, let alone someone living in the rural countryside. The cosmetic was definitely not owned by someone living in this village. As to how it got into the fool’s hands? That was simple. The fool probably ambushed the woman who had this lipstick just like he had attacked Shen Yu. During the ensuing scuffle, he stole it from her.
One hand held the lipstick, the other held the crude piece of cloth. She brought them together and looked at them. A luxury brand cosmetic and a rough piece of fabric. The two did not go together so Shen Yu thought that the people who had them were unrelated to each other.
Tang Can nodded when he heard her deduction. “I didn’t get a good look at the person I fought but I could tell that the clothes he was wearing were from this area.”
“He probably thought that Song Geng had gold so he came over to dig for it. A local thief!” Shen Yu carefully put the lipstick and piece of cloth into her pocket. These were pieces of evidence she had to keep safe.
“No, he’s not.” Tang Can shook his head and walked further into the room. He went to one of the holes in the ground and picked up a short shovel.
Shen Yu thought that it looked like an average old shovel. All villagers had shovels to do work with.
Tang Can refuted her thoughts, “This isn’t a normal metal shovel. It’s a military-grade spade!”
Shen Yu perked her ears at the term. She had seen it before in a book of fiction she had read before. The story was about tomb robbers. The thieves had used a tool just like this one to steal from the dead. She summarily voiced her thoughts to Tang Can.
Tang Can shook his head. “This is not the tool that you are thinking of. The ones that the tomb robbers used were counterfeit copies of this. This is the real shovel that military engineers use.”
To determine whether something like this was real or fake was not her area of expertise. The tools that engineers use were not something that a reporter would normally know about. Shen Yu cocked her head to the side and inspected the shovel. In her eyes, it still looked like any old spade that a farming family would have. Other than the shorter handle, there was nothing special about it
Tang Can also knew that she didn’t have much experience in this area. He slowly explained to her, “Although the paint on this is mostly faded and you can no longer see the military green, you can still tell whether it is real or a fake by looking at the handle. Authentic military spades have a special turn in the handle. In terms of mechanics, this type of design is the most sturdy and avoids unnecessary bending. Furthermore, the shape of the shovel is very difficult to reproduce. The factories that make the counterfeits are unable to make something of this quality.” He used the light from the flashlight to inspect the shovel again. After he finished, Shen Yu could see that he was scowling.
“What’s wrong?” Shen Yu couldn’t tell why he was so upset.
Tang Can didn’t reply immediately and carefully looked at the shovel again. Then he said, “This is the first generation of military shovels. You can still see the name of the military factory on it. Judging by the serial number, if I’m not wrong, this was made in my father’s generation…”
Shen Yu looked blankly at it, her mind slow to to react. She gasped and opened her eyes widely, as if a lightbulb had just lit up in her thoughts. She quietly said, “What you’re trying to say is…” Her voice drifted off at the end.
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