TWELFTH FLOOR MYSTERY - CHAPTER 10, PART 4

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CHAPTER 10

PART 4


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"Tan Yong is such a dedicated and responsible policeman," Su Xiaotong remarked, her feelings somewhat complex.


"Yeah, to prevent any further incidents, he not only moved in himself but also called his colleague Li Bin over. Patrolling, giving reminders, repeatedly emphasizing safety in the group chat – I've never seen such a responsible officer before. With him around, we feel much safer," Gu Lei said.


"But the problem is, Tan Yong can't live here for twenty years, nor can he be like this every day," Su Xiaotong expressed her concern.


"But he'll always find ways to protect us. Just like me, Xiaotong, no one can harm you or Xiaoliang with me here," Gu Lei reassured her.


Su Xiaotong nodded. "Take Xiaoliang for a bath."


While Gu Lei bathed his son, Su Xiaotong lay on the bed watching videos on her phone. Around ten past ten, someone initiated a WeChat voice call. Su Xiaotong checked and saw it was from Xia Qi. She answered the call.

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"Hello, Xia Qi?"


"Yeah, Sister Xiaotong, you're still awake?"


"Not asleep yet, anything up?"


"I wanted to talk to you, is it okay?"


"Of course."


"This morning, Fan Lin said I'm the prime suspect among everyone. I want to hear your honest thoughts – do you also believe that?"


Su Xiaotong felt awkward. Yes, she really wanted to say that. But how could she express it so directly to Xia Qi? After a moment's hesitation, she reluctantly said, "No, I don't think so."


"Really?"


"Yeah."


"Then that's great, thank you, Sister Xiaotong."


Why is she thanking me? Do I believe her? Is this crucial? I'm not a cop. Or perhaps, she hopes that if the police ask me, I'll speak up for her? But she should know that wouldn't carry much weight. Su Xiaotong pondered silently.


"Because you and Gu Lei joined the 'family' not long ago, it might be hard for you to understand my feelings for these people. Actually, I really... I truly consider everyone in the 'family' as my family," Xia Qi's voice broke with emotion.


"I can actually see that."


"Sister Yamei's murder has left me utterly distraught. I never expected a poisoning incident to follow... I feel incredibly distressed. How did our harmonious and joyful 'family' turn into this?" Xia Qi's voice trembled with emotion.


Su Xiaotong furrowed her brow. She couldn't determine if Xia Qi was genuinely expressing herself or acting. She pondered intensely. If it was an act, why would she perform this drama just for her? Or perhaps, had she called others too?

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"Long ago, I heard people say money is a silent murderer. I never believed it until today when I truly understood," Xia Qi lamented, "For money, some people can sacrifice everything. Family, friendship, none of it matters to them."


Unable to resist, Su Xiaotong asked, "Xia Qi, what are you trying to tell me with all this?"


"Sister Xiaotong, I'm thinking, if I had to live in such an environment, constantly anxious and unsafe, no amount of money would matter. So, I'm considering leaving instead."


Su Xiaotong was taken aback. "You mean, like Tan Yong, giving up inheritance rights?"


"Yes, that's what I'm thinking. But I haven't made a final decision. I'm so confused and wanted someone to talk to. I hope I'm not bothering you?"


"Of course not." Su Xiaotong wasn't sure if Xia Qi was being genuine. She cautiously probed, "Xia Qi, if you give up inheritance rights, leave Yuehai Bay Community, or even Lishi City, what are your plans?"


Xia Qi didn't hesitate one bit in her response. "I want to get married, find a steady man, live a simple life. That's enough for me. Money isn't that important to me. The most indispensable thing in my life is true love."


Those words sounded like something a young girl would say. However, in the future, when faced with life's harshness, competition, friends' comparisons, and children's education, she'd realize the importance of money. Then, she'd understand that true love is the most 'indispensable' thing. Su Xiaotong thought.


"Speaking of true love, I envy you and Brother Gu Lei."


Su Xiaotong smiled wryly, "What's there to envy?" What she wanted to ask was, how did you realize that we have true love? But she held back from saying it out loud.


"Your relationship is great. You've been married for many years, right? Gu Lei still treats you like his first love," Xia Qi observed.


Su Xiaotong paused for a moment and replied, "Actually, we're not an old married couple. We got married just last year."


"Oh? But your child... Xiaoliang isn't about seven years old?"


"He's from my previous marriage."


"Oh, I see. I'm sorry, I always thought you two were the original couple, and Xiaoliang was your child."


"It's okay; I didn't tell you."


"Then, Sister Xiaotong, can I ask? After divorcing your ex-husband, did you go through a period of being single before being with Gu Lei, or did you get together with him shortly after?"


Why is Xia Qi suddenly so gossipy? Su Xiaotong couldn't help but wonder. She rarely asked such personal questions before. What's happening today? Anyway, since she asked, I'll just answer briefly. No need to go into details; there's too much to explain, like the fact that my ex-husband and I never actually divorced...

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"There wasn't really a single period, it was shortly after becoming single that I got together with him."


"Oh, I see. Sister Xiaotong, you're so lucky. Every girl would want to marry a great man like Gu Lei."


Su Xiaotong managed a forced smile.


"Are you tired? I won't disturb you then. Rest early, Sister Xiaotong, good night."


"Okay, good night."


After hanging up, Su Xiaotong sank into contemplation. She felt there was a purpose behind Xia Qi's call, but she couldn't quite figure out what it might be. Just then, father and son, both in tank tops and shorts after their shower, walked into the bedroom. After Xiaoliang settled into bed, he asked his mom to tell him a story. Su Xiaotong agreed while telling Gu Lei, "Xia Qi called me just now."


"Oh, what did she say?"


"Not much, just chatting. She expressed sadness about how our 'family' has turned out."


"Was she being genuine?"


"How would I know?"


"If she was sincere, it shows that Xia Qi truly values emotions. If not, then she has some ulterior motive."


"I have the same suspicion. But why would she tell me all this? I'm not a cop, she should say this to Tan Yong, right?"


"Directly telling Tan Yong might seem too obvious. Relaying it through someone else might make the police believe it more."


"By saying that, aren't you implying..."


"No, I was just speaking casually." Gu Lei glanced at Gu Xiaoliang. "Let's not discuss this topic in front of the kid."


Su Xiaotong also realized this, picked up a children's book from the bedside, and prepared to tell a story to Gu Xiaoliang. Gu Lei smiled at the mother and son, saying, "I'll go to the study and finish up the design I started a few days ago."


"Do you really need to work so hard on the design now?"


Gu Lei understood Su Xiaotong's concern and chuckled, "Until the money's in hand, the work must go on. Besides, apart from money, integrity is important too."


Su Xiaotong nodded and began telling her son a story. Gu Lei left the door slightly ajar, entered the study, and turned on the computer.


Before Gu Xiaoliang finished one story, he fell fast asleep. Su Xiaotong settled her son, took out her phone, and started watching a show. After a while, a WeChat message arrived from Zhou Sida, asking, "Are you asleep, Xiaotong?"

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Su Xiaotong: Not yet.


Zhou Sida: Want to come out for a drink?


Su Xiaotong: ???


Zhou Sida: I came to your city. I'm planning to go to a bar now.


Su Xiaotong: Ah? When did you arrive?


Zhou Sida: Just got off the plane and contacted you right away.


Su Xiaotong: Why did you suddenly decide to come to the city?


Zhou Sida: It wasn't "sudden." Didn't I tell you last time I might come to your city to hang out?


Su Xiaotong: I thought you were just saying that.


Zhou Sida: No, it's been a long time since I've seen you. I kind of miss you.


Su Xiaotong: Don't say things like that.


Zhou Sida: What's wrong? We agreed that we could be friends even after breaking up, right? I came to visit an old friend; is that not okay?


Su Xiaotong didn't know what to say. In the silence, Zhou Sida messaged again: How about it, want to have a couple of drinks?


Su Xiaotong: Forget it, I need to accompany my son to sleep, and it's late. My husband wouldn't feel comfortable with me going out at this time.


Zhou Sida was straightforward and didn't push further: Okay, I'll be in the city for a while. We can plan another day.


Su Xiaotong: Okay.


Zhou Sida: By the way, recommend a hotel or a homestay for me, one by the Yuehai beach, with a private swimming pool.


Su Xiaotong: I really don't know about that. You're looking for the top-notch, luxurious kind. You should search online yourself.


Zhou Sida: Okay, won't disturb your rest. Good night.


Su Xiaotong: Good night.


Every time Zhou Sida messaged, it stirred up Su Xiaotong's emotions. Especially this time, Zhou Sida unexpectedly coming to the city made Su Xiaotong's thoughts tumultuous. Zhou Sida was her first boyfriend after graduating from university, handsome and from a well-off family. She recalled the time she spent dating Zhou Sida, generally happy. If it weren't for his difficult family and her youthful impetuosity, they might not have broken up. But over the years, Zhou Sida seemed to have become independent, no longer dependent on his parents... Also, for some reason, even after many years, he hadn't married yet. Had he not had enough fun, or had he not met the right person, or... had he been holding on to feelings for his ex-girlfriend? Was his visit to the city for a simple vacation or…


Su Xiaotong calmed her mind, preventing thoughts from spreading. No matter what, she was a married woman, and her relationship with Zhou Sida had long become a thing of the past. It was best to stop certain thoughts, especially amidst the chaos she had encountered recently. The shadow of the murder case and the looming threat of death hadn't dissipated. Who had the time to dwell on past emotions?


Su Xiaotong shook her head to clear her mind and continued watching the drama.

Around eleven fifty-something, WeChat beeped again. Su Xiaotong thought it might be from Zhou Sida. She picked up her phone and, with widened eyes, saw it wasn't from him.


It was a message from Xia Qi in the 'Big Family' group, saying:

"Tonight, I've been thinking for a long time. It seems like I know who the murderer is."

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