Translator: 阿萌 Editor: Kurisu
The city of Urumqi, morning.
Zhao Lei had always been an early riser and today was no exception. Dressed in a plain and simple casual outfit, he sauntered into a breakfast shop.
"Hey, you're here!" the owner greeted him.
"Just those three things as usual!"
"Sure. Go find yourself a table."
He walked right in and sat down in a corner. The shop was packed with people of all genders and age groups, each with their own characteristic. Zhao Lei, however, managed to blend into the background as if he were invisible.
His most conspicuous quality was probably his inconspicuousness. With his average features, average stature, and average outfit, it would require extra attention to even realize his presence in the crowd.
Such people were usually marginalized in their workplaces. Fortunately, he was not your average employee.
Currently in his thirties, Zhao Lei had been a plain-clothes police for over a decade. He had yet to participate in anything major, but had carried out hundreds, if not thousands, of minor tasks from tracking, shadowing, and keeping surveillance to cracking down on pickpockets, etc.
He was an expert in at least one thing, if nothing else, which was to see through a person by their appearance.
It was not an ability to be taken lightly. Of all the occupations there were in this world, be it a fisherman casting a net, an old peasant working with his hoe, or a swordsman drawing his sword, they all followed the same law: repeating the simplest move for ten thousand times until one became an expert at it.
Zhao Lei was the same. He was friendly towards his colleagues, relatives, and children, even to the point of showing weakness. However, when facing petty thieves, somehow he became this figure to be revered.
Too bad for him that all of those were history now.
A short time ago, Zhao Lei, who had little hope
of being promoted before retirement, received a transfer order out of the blue, moving him to a newly established department. Once there, they were given centralized training to begin with, where government personnel came in to give them lectures, bombarding them with talks of "loving thy country, loving thy people" before moving on to crush their existing world view to a crumble.
We'll skip the specifics. Let's just say, they're not in Kansas anymore.
The name of their unit was changed accordingly. It was now Team Four of the Third Department, BIMAUP Urumqi, and nominally under the jurisdiction of the municipal government. There was no name plate to indicate this unit outside a small building in the government compound, which was their current office.
They had one director, two deputy directors, and seven departmental heads. The unit consisted of Investigation Department and Operation Department, each containing several teams and peripheral employees, the latter also known as "temps".
The elite worked in the compound and the hired helpers walked the street. To Zhao Lei, he was merely transferred from one grass-root unit to another. It all added up.
To be honest though, he was holding some grievance. He liked his old plain-clothes job. In this new unit where everything was so mysterious and secretive, he felt blindfolded. Nothing seemed normal.
Take this Operation Department as an example. He had not met a single colleague from the department so far. It seemed to be ran by a handful of people, each one sneakier than the next.
And there was all this nonsense the lecturer had been telling them. Many would not believe them and there was much discussion among the colleagues. Even the name "BIMAUP" was unpopular; it sounded like a skeleton in the closet.
Zhao Lei raised the bowl to his lips and sipped at the preserved egg congee, which warmed up and settled his stomach. Also sitting on his table
table were four steamed stuffed buns and a dish of stewed dried tofu. These were his daily choice of breakfast.
He took a few bites of his bun and looked up in passing. Someone happened to walk past the shop at that moment. The figure flitted past the doorway and disappeared.
Zhao Lei widened his eyes instantly. Leaving a ten-yuan bill on the table, he hurried out of the door, then grabbed his phone and dialed a number, "Hello, Captain Chen, they've showed up again!"
"What? Showed up? Again?" the voice on the other side sounded thick with sleepiness. The captain was probably awakened from his sleep.
"Targets No. One and No. Two!"
A series of clashing sounds came out of the phone as the captain roared, "Are you sure?"
"Don't lose them. I'll report now!"
Zhao Lei had not been given any task ever since his transfer. He was bored to death on a daily basis.
There was an opportunity a while ago, which was to follow someone, something he was an expert at. The superior had named a few men, him included, but the arrangement was revoked impromptu and they were replaced by another bunch of men.
The captain told him later that those were the superiors of their superior, staff of the HQ in the capital city.
He could find nothing to say in reply. Whatever workplace one was in, they would never escape the conflict between local offices and HQs. However, this incident had provided him with some basic information on those two fellows… in a word, they were miraculous.
The duo were off the grid for a time, presumably dead in the mountains, before they made the unexpected appearance again.
It was a sunny morning.
Erdao Bridge 1 was the busiest commercial area in Urumqi, packed with specialty stores selling goods of various ethnic minority groups. The most famous one among them was doubtlessly the Grand Bazaar on the southmost end.
"Grand Bazaar" was "fair" or "farm product market" in Uighur.
Right now, the tall and slender couple were just exiting the Grand Bazaar carrying bags. In them were odds and ends they just bought.
Zhao Lei was indeed a man of much experience. He managed to tail the two so far and stayed behind them at an adequate distance. The pushing crowd did not seem to bother him at all.
As a matter of fact, he found their behavior rather strange. The two targets seemed to be at ease and were really enjoying the shopping trip. They looked here and there among the shops and did not come out until over an hour later.
After that, they got on a bus.
Zhao Lei followed them up, acting cautiously as a common passenger. As the bus drove on, he realized it was on an outbound route, carrying them further away from the city.
The two only got off at a small station just outside the second ring road.
A large stretch of worn-out factories, most of which was lying idle, completed the scene. The dilapidated buildings were encircled by barbed wires and an old genitor was hired to guard the gate and keep an eye on those trying to steal the scrap iron.
'Is this their hideout?' Zhao Lei found this queer as he followed them for another short distance. All of a sudden, those two quickened their pace and turned at a pile of rubbles. He hurried after them with quiet steps and turned left as well.
'Where are they?'
Seeing no one ahead, Zhao Lei realized he was spotted. He immediately tried to retreat, but then everything went dark.
"After all the bragging and boasting you drown us in on a daily basis, what did you do when the crunch came? Huh?"
In the compound of the municipal government, Director Tong was banging on the table lashing out as he sat in his office of his office of the local sub-bureau. "I was told you had set up a station in the mountains, did you get to stick to the targets? I was told you had a back-up plan in Dakang, where the hell is the back-up? They just marched into the city like that! And who spotted them? Someone not from our team!"
The two deputies sat across the table, both pursing their lips, seemingly not concerned at all.
That was just the way it is. The HQ sent people down here and the local office had to give way, coming in second on all matters while waiting upon the honorable guests with a smiling face. The director might seem infuriated, but he could well be chuckling with satisfaction inside.
In politics, strifes and forming ties were the most common activities. There were simply so many factions. The large ones divided into small ones, with in turn consisted of individuals each with their own interest. It was a mess.
Even those of the same system were not of one mind. Of course, they shared the same big goal and all had to work to accomplish the mission.
After venting his anger, Director Tong felt much relieved and asked, "Have the people of the HQ found out about this?"
"We've reported to them. Their instruction was also to keep the two in sight and wait for further instructions."
"Instructions… humph! Is this Zhao Lei reliable?"
"Should be. He was a police officer for many years. This is what he has always been doing."
"Can you confirm his whereabouts now?"
"Yes. The cell phones we issued all have automatic positioning and right now, they should be…"
"Knock knock knock!"
Just then, there came a knock at the door and a fellow from the monitoring center walked in. "Sir! The signal of Zhao Lei had remained still in a building material factory on western Second Ring for ten minutes. We request further instructions."