Volume 5 –
Chapters 401 To 500
Chapter 423 – Race Against Time
Fu Mingmei lay on the operating table. Her originally pretty face had been disfigured; her lips were turned outwards due to swelling. Her eyes were dark with bruising and they were swollen too. Her chest and torso had knife wounds and these wounds were still bleeding.
The nature of her injuries were clear at first glance – someone had attacked her!
Outside the operating theatre, anger flared in Xia Lei’s heart after he used his X-ray vision and saw the situation inside. He took out his mobile phone and called Shentu Tianyin’s number again, but her phone was still switched off.
Xia Lei had called Shentu Tianyin’s mobile phone number more than once on his way to the hospital but could not get through to her.
Now, Fu Mingmei’s life hung by a thread on the operating table and she was obviously not able to tell him what had happened. Right then, Xia Lei felt like his eyes had been covered, his ears deafened, and like he had been thrust into a tight space, unable to get the information he needed.
After some hesitation, Xia Lei called Shentu Ren. “Father…”
“Lei? What is it?” Shentu Ren seemed happy to receive a call from Xia Lei.
Xia Lei held his worry and anxiousness in check and spoke calmly. “Father, I called to ask if Tianyin is home.”
“No, she’s not. She left early this morning with you and hasn’t been back since. I called Mingmei but I didn’t manage to get through,” said Shentu Ren.
Xia Lei froze. He abruptly realised that the phone the doctor had found on Fu Mingmei was not her phone at all, but a phone someone had deliberately left on her. The doctor had also said that he was the only contact on the phone.
“Lei? What’s happened?” Shentu Ren grew nervous.
“Nothing, it’s fine. No need to worry. They’re probably in a zone with no reception. All right, I’ll go look for her; I know where she is. I’ll call you right away when I find her,” said Xia Lei.
“Okay. Drive safe,” nagged Shentu Ren.
Xia Lei hung up. He had not received any sort of communication but he more or less knew for sure now – Shentu Tianyin had been kidnapped!
Ring ring ring, ring ring ring…
The phone in his hand rang all of a sudden.
It was from a number he’d never seen before.
Xia Lei took a deep breath and picked up. “Who is this?”
A deep male voice came from over the line. “Xia Lei?”
“This is he,” said Xia Lei. “Let’s be calm. How much do you want? Name your price.”
“Heh heh, looks like you already know what happened,” said the man. “Listen carefully, I won’t repeat myself. Shentu Tianyin is in our hands. Do not contact the police. Prepare 200,000,000 in cash immediately and go to Baoding two hours later. I will contact you again in two hours.”
“Two hours for 200,000,000? The banks are closed now – how am I going to get this money? Even if it’s the bank operating hours, there’s no way I can withdraw such a large sum in two hours. Plus, I’ll need these two hours to get to Baoding. Would a bank transfer work? You provide an account number and I’ll transfer the money to you immediately when I see Shentu Tianyin,” said Xia Lei.
The man was silent for a bit, then said, “A transfer works too, but the ransom is 300,000,000. See you in Baoding in two hours. Remember – no police! Or you’ll be seeing her corpse!”
“I won’t call the police. Let me hear her voice.” Xia Lei tried to keep himself calm.
“Whuuh… Xia Lei… No…” Shentu Tianyin’s voice came from over the line but disappeared quickly.
The man’s voice was heard a few seconds later. “You’ve confirmed her condition. Get moving. Don’t be late.” And he hung up.
Xia Lei put his phone away and started running to the hospital’s carpark.
The night was dark and the neon lights of the city flashed as cars came and went on the roads. A Chevrolet Suburban dashed madly on the streets, going straight through every light like a rampaging beast.
Xia Lei’s brows were locked in a frown in the car, his thoughts heavy. He thought of calling either Long Bing or Tang Yuyan to get Bureau 101 to help. This seemed to be the best choice but he gave up on that idea though he’d decided to do so.
In that instant, his brain functions sped up to its maximum.
If this was a normal kidnapping then Fu Mingmei would have been able to fend it off. Whenever Shentu Tianyin went out, she had four male bodyguards in addition to her close aide Fu Mingmei. These bodyguards of hers were no ordinary people either – no regular kidnappers would be able to kidnap Shentu Tianyin with the level of her bodyguards!
If they weren’t normal kidnappers, then who were they?
If he did not know the enemy’s power and called Long Bing or Tang Yuyan to get Bureau 101’s help, he might make things worse!
‘The man who called demanded 200,000,000 in cash and he didn’t think much when I suggested a bank transfer. He’s obviously thought of this possibility.
If it’s a bank transfer then he could ask for 1,000,000,000, or even more. The one he’s kidnapped is Shentu Tianyin after all. But he only asked for 100,000,000 more… Why?’ Question after question popped up in his head and he couldn’t answer them.
His brain was still swiftly replaying, analysing.
‘There was the sound of wind when the man was talking earlier. Not a lot of time has passed from when Fu Mingmei was discovered too, so does this mean the kidnappers are on their way to Baoding with Shentu Tianyin? Was the wind sound I heard from a gap in the car window? If it’s like that, then why must it be in Baoding? The exchange can take place in Jingdu too. What are they hiding?’ Xia Lei grew increasingly afraid the more he thought about it. He had a feeling that this was not a normal kidnapping and that the kidnappers had some motive other than money. And they likely knew his identity too – they were asking for the exchange to take place in Baoding to avoid Bureau 101!
Xia Lei felt even less inclined to contact Long Bing and Tang Yuyan at that thought.
The car zoomed out of the city and got on the highway, straight to Baoding.
There were several vehicles on the road to Baoding, and the kidnappers’ vehicles was among them. However, there was no way to know which one it was.
Soon after getting on the highway, Xia Lei pulled out his phone and dialled Gu Kewen’s number.
Gu Kewen’s phone was not switched off and the call connected quickly.
“Xia Lei? What is it?” Gu Kewen’s voice came from over the line.
“Do you know where Tianyin went today?” Xia Lei kept his emotions under control; his voice was calm and probing.
“I don’t know. I went home after Ahn Suhyeong’s negotiations,” said Gu Kewen.
“Negotiations have started so soon?”
“You know what Tianyin is like. She won’t change her decision once she’s made it. She’s also a person who likes efficiency. Since she’s pulled off the masks with Shinyeok Group, when negotiations happen makes no difference to the results.”
“Is the chairman of Shinyeok Group not involved?”
“This… I’m not sure. Ahn Geungan controls Shinyeok Group and what this means for Ahn Suhyeong is probably just a phone call to his father. This matter can actually be settled simply,” said Gu Kewen.
“I see.” After a pause, Xia Lei said, “Where are you?”
“Didn’t I just tell you? I’m at home,” said Gu Kewen. “You’re being weird today. Why are you asking me strange questions like these?”
“No, I just find it a little noisy where you are.”
“Oh, so that’s why you’re asking. I’m on the balcony. There’re people downstairs,” said Gu Kewen.
“That’s that, then. I won’t be disturbing you further.” Xia Lei hung up.
Xia Lei’s eyes were cold, but his heart was colder.
He had not heard any sort of background noise earlier but Gu Kewen had said she was on the balcony when he probed. Was she feeling guilty or was she hiding something?
‘Could Gu Kewen and Ahn Suhyeong conspired in this kidnapping? If so, then I’m going to kill them!’ Xia Lei’s heart was aflame with anger.
This was just a guess, of course, but he was going to have his revenge once he got to the bottom of it!
He hated those who target people close to him the most – and they’ve targeted his fiancee this time!
Xia Lei entered the Baoding area an hour later. He stopped his car by the road and dialled the number which had called him earlier but the phone was switched off. His heart sank. The kidnappers were prepared. He was in the dark while they knew what was going on – it was extremely dangerous for him tonight!
Xia Lei opened the boot of the Chevrolet Suburban. Inside was his personally modified XL2500 sniper rifle. This was not his first time in a life-or-death situation and he’d always felt safe and confident with a sniper rifle at hand but it was different this time. He did not feel safe at all.
This was because Shentu Tianyin was in the enemy’s hands.
Xia Lei closed the boot and looked around, then went into a supermarket along the road. He bought a small knife in the supermarket and hid it in his sock. He had also inserted needles into the soles of his socks and he hid more in his underwear.
Xia Lei’s phone rang not ten minutes after he got back to his car.
It was another number this time, but the person speaking was the same.
“Where are you now?” The man’s voice was deep, cold and emotionless.
“I’m in the Baoding city area right now,” said Xia Lei.
“Get out of the city. Head east – Shuntian Chemical Plant. I’ll be waiting for you there,” said the man.
“I want to hear Tianyin’s voice!” said Xia Lei.
“Whuuh… Xia Lei! Don’t come here!” Shentu Tianyin’s voice was full of tears, terror and despair.
“Don’t be afraid. I’ll bring you home,” said Xia Lei.
The man’s voice came over the phone, “All right, get moving. No tricks or I’ll kill her!”
“Calm down. What you want is money, not disaster. I will pay you the money. You take the money and go, and I bring her home,” said Xia Lei.
“Bah.” The man snorted, then hung up.
Xia Lei started his engine and headed east.
Half an hour later, the Chevrolet Suburban came to a remote road in the suburbs with the help of the car’s navigation system.
A dilapidated factory sat at the end of the road. No lights were on; it was inky-black.
Xia Lei glanced at the watch on his wrist. Ten more minutes till the two hours the kidnappers had specified. These kidnappers had timed things well.