While Ficks was resting, Dong Zheng checked the entire room except for the master bedroom. He speculated that Ficks must have been single for a long time. Before that, he might have been living with other people in this house. For some reason, Ficks had deliberately removed traces of that person, and there was nothing left.
Dong Zheng flipped through a stack of newspapers in the cabinet and looked for the headlines in the most recent months. He finally saw news about what happened a week ago.
“The second son of wealthy man Ferdinand is dead. The cause of death is under investigation.”
His intuition told him that this was absolutely important information. Dong Zheng carefully read everything about the case that was mentioned in the newspaper: Ferdinand was a wealthy man who was famous throughout the state. He had a good reputation for being enthusiastic about charity, and his family lived in this town of Wisteria. A week ago, on the day before the newspaper was published, on October 4, Ferdinand’s sixteen-year-old second son, George, was found to have committed suicide by swallowing at gun at home.
Ferdinand had George when he was nearly 40 years old, and he doted on George. After the incident, he was adamant that his son had not committed suicide. When police surveyed the scene, they discovered a few very subtle clues.
As for what these clues were, they were definitely not shared in the newspaper. Dong Zheng suspected the media might have even added this sentence to promote sales. Western media had always liked to use this trick.
Dong Zheng opened the next day’s newspaper.
October 5, the headline was still occupied by the progress of the investigation into Ferdinand’s second son’s suicide. After the police searched and collected evidence, they suspected that George’s death might not be a suicide after all.
The headline on October 6th changed the protagonist. Another resident of the town of Wisteria had died. He was found dead in his garden with his left hand missing—this was similar to George’s death.
Dong Zheng suddenly became excited. The two previous newspapers did not describe George’s death in detail except for committing suicide by swallowing a gun. It now appeared that someone took his left hand. Was the hand taken after death or before death?
Dong Zheng preferred the first situation. If George’s hand was taken away by the “murderer” before his death, there would definitely be a lot of blood stains on the scene, and it would be impossible for the police to think that this was a suicide.
So why did the man who killed George take his left hand? Was the subsequent death and George’s death committed by the same person?
After flipping through the newspapers that Ficks brought back when he returned home, Dong Zheng already had a general outline of what the box wanted him to do.
In this week, including George, three residents of the town of Wisteria died in succession. Their bodies were found in their homes. Their deaths were different, but everyone’s left hand was gone, and the forensic doctor determined that all their left hands were chopped off after death.
In addition, there were two other people who had gone missing. Their families couldn’t contact them no matter what method they use. These two people had disappeared into the town as if they had completely evaporated.
The headline of the newspaper on the last day directly wrote the words “Serial Murderer Appeared in the Town of Wisteria.” The article revealed the true feelings of everyone in the town up to now.
The two missing persons disappeared on October 7 and October 11, respectively. Dong Zheng thought of the strange taste of the soup at breakfast today, and his heart suddenly became uncomfortable.
He put down the newspaper, went into the kitchen, and opened the refrigerator.
A piece of freshly frozen meat was placed on the upper layer. It was red and white, with bright red blood on the texture, and it still exuded a bloody smell that hadn’t yet dissipated.
In addition, there were some pasta and vegetables in the refrigerator, and a few boxes of milk.
Dong Zheng washed his hands and took a deep breath. He touched the meat with his index finger, trying to figure out what it was.
“Are you afraid that you might have eaten human flesh?” This was the first time Cui Zuojing had spoken up since entering the box. He’d been observing Dong Zheng’s performance in the prisoner space and couldn’t help but asked when he saw his nervous appearance.
“To be honest, it tasted disgusting.” Dong Zheng squeezed hard to confirm what it was, but he hadn’t seen what human flesh was like isolated so he didn’t know. He could only tell that it wasn’t from a cow, sheep, pig, or fish.
“Forget it.” In the end, Dong Zheng gave up and closed the refrigerator. He washed his hands and could only comfort himself, “Anyway, I have already finished eating. What else can I do?”
Cui Zuojing smiled. “Then why did you eat it? Not paying attention?”
“I realized something was wrong after I ate it.” Dong Zheng took a deep breath and sorted out the newspapers he’d read and put them back. He looked at the empty street outside the window and said in a low voice, “No wonder there was no one on the street. If such things happened one after another, who would dare to go outside?”
Cui Zuojing agreed. “Mmn.”
Dong Zheng sat on the sofa for a while. The more he thought about it, the more he realized how wrong things were.
John and Ficks hadn’t seen each other for 20 years, and it was unknown how they got in touch. What’s more, after knowing that there was a murderer in the area, Ficks still let John live in his house?
There was obviously something wrong with this.
After Ficks wakes up, he could test him out.
Thinking of this, Dong Zheng looked at the clock hanging on the wall, and a line of words suddenly appeared before his eyes.
[Do you want to jump to the moment when the next plot point occurs?]
Although Dong Zheng had never entered a single-person box before, he still understood that a majority of the time, nothing important happened. In order to save time, the box would have a function that allowed them to jump to the next important plot point.
He chose “Yes,” and his eyes gradually darkened.
A few seconds later, his consciousness became clear again. Dong Zheng opened his eyes and saw that he was in the bedroom and that it was dark. He lay quietly and waited for the plot to arrive. Three minutes later, he heard a slight sound of the master bedroom next door opening.
Ficks came out of his room.
Dong Zheng listened intently to the movement outside and silently simulated the sounds in his mind. Ficks went to the living room to drink water. However, because he didn’t turn on the lights, he accidentally knocked the glass on the coffee table. He poured himself water and drank it. Then, he put the cup aside and went to the bathroom.
After coming out of the bathroom, he left the house.
He left the house?
Dong Zheng got up from the bed and turned on the light. The clock indicated that it was five o’clock in the morning.
Five o’clock…Dong Zheng frowned and immediately turned off the light, fearing that Ficks might see that the light was on and realize that he was awake. He parted the curtain and peeked out. It was pitched black outside, the darkest before dawn. In the darkness, only a few street lights were faintly lit, and the atmosphere was eerily quiet.
Going out at this time…It was probably a morning run plus grocery shopping. Yesterday, Ficks made breakfast at 6:30 in the morning, which happened to match today’s trajectory.
As Dong Zheng thought this, he laid back down. The option to jump forward appeared once again.
This was a key plot point?
He was a little puzzled. He got up again, groped his way out his bedroom door, and tried to enter Ficks room. He didn’t believe that the box had made him to this point in time only to let him listen to Ficks going out at five o’clock in the morning.
He turned the doorknob and found that Ficks had locked the master bedroom. Dong Zheng frowned. He looked at the clock in the living room. Because he was using the dim lights streaming in from outside, it took him a long time to locate the clock. In the end, he discovered that the clock was missing.
When had it been taken away?
He didn’t know.
Dong Zheng had no choice but to go back to his bedroom, full of doubts. He chose to jump to the next plot point.
When he opened his eyes, it was already bright.
The sound of chirping birds came in through the window. It was 6:45 in the morning.
Just like yesterday, Dong Zheng crossed out October 13th on the calendar. When he opened the door, he could smell the aroma of breakfast.
He thought for a moment. Then he raised his hand to mess with his hair, hunched his shoulders, and half-opened his eyes. Pretending to be sick, he sneezed twice and walked out of the room.
“I caught a cold,” he told Ficks. “Maybe the window wasn’t closed last night.”
“I hope it’s not serious.” Ficks once again made a pot of soup with toast. Layers of calluses marked the gap between his right index finger and thumb.
“It’s not. I’ll just need two days of rest at most. But right now, I don’t have a good appetite, so I’ll just eat some toast.” Dong Zheng watched him put the bowl on the table and asked, “What kind of meat is this? The taste seems to be different from what I’ve ever had before.”
“Horse meat.” Ficks replied, “Eating this is good for the liver. Why? Haven’t you eaten it before?”
Dong Zheng thought of his background in the box as a former rich man and smiled, “I have, but your’s smells a little different and tasted more savory.”
In fact, Dong Zheng had never personally eaten horse meat before, and so there was no way for him to know if what Ficks said was correct. The two of them sat at the dining table and ate. After eating two slices of toast, the atmosphere seemed to be lighter than yesterday.
Dong Zheng asked seemingly unintentionally, “I heard you went out before dawn this morning. You went shopping so early?”
“Fresh horse meat sells very quickly. You have to go early in the morning. I’m used to getting up early and running in the morning every day to get fresh food.”
This was similar to Dong Zheng’s guess. After the two had eaten, Ficks had to go back to sleep.
Before he closed the door, Dong Zheng asked, “By the way, you told me not to go out casually, what’s the situation?”
Ficks looked back. His smiling expression disappeared, replaced by solemnity. “Recently, this place isn’t very safe. Several people have died in succession. For more details, you can look at the newspaper I kept in the cupboard.”
Dong Zheng pretended to be taken aback, and Ficks relaxed. “But as long as you stay at home, you shouldn’t have any problems. Don’t worry.”
The door of the master bedroom closed, Dong Lei looked surprised, and opened the refrigerator again. The piece of meat he saw yesterday was gone, replaced by a new fresh piece of meat.
The other one was probably eaten up this morning.
The street was abnormally noisy, Dong Zheng looked through the window and found several police cars parked on the side of the street not far away.
He recalled Ficks’ warning for him not to go out casually. With a smile, he grabbed the house key, changed his shoes, and walked out of the house for the first time.
He went to the house where the police had gathered and stood on the outside of the cordon barrier. There were almost no residents of Wisteria present except the police. The murders these past days had exhausted everyone’s curiosity. Now that everyone felt a sense of danger, who would casually leave the house?
There was an obese auntie in the garden next door pruning her plants. Dong Zheng approached her and pretended to make idle chatter. “Is someone dead again?”
“A woman from the Ford family.” The auntie glanced at Dong Zheng, registered his presence, and immediately became vigilant. “Why have I never seen you before?”
“I live in Ficks house.” Dong Zheng pointed to the house. “I’m his friend. Something happened to my house, so I’m staying here temporarily. But who would have imagined that this place is actually so unsafe. What should I call you, ma’am?”