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305 Tipped Off

 Zhao Liangze entered the numbers in the SMS into his computer program, hoping the program would tell him what they meant.

Unfortunately, he came up empty-handed.

"Let's get Huo Shao and Brother Xiong to join us in a meeting." Gu Nianzhi could hardly contain her excitement. "This is a major discovery, I'm sure of it."

Zhao Liangze agreed. Together with Gu Nianzhi, he brought the printed records to Huo Shaoheng's office, and asked Yin Shixiong to join them.

Yin Shixiong was the last to enter the room. He closed the door behind him.

"What's wrong?" Huo Shaoheng had been sitting in his desk chair, talking to someone over his headset with his back towards the door. He swiveled around when he heard the door open. His expression was calm; he exuded the leisurely aura of a king who knew he was in complete control of the situation.

Gu Nianzhi suddenly felt that many of her difficulties seemed absurdly trivial before him.

"Huo Shao, we found Huo Guanyuan's private phone, and also this..." Zhao Liangze handed the printed record for the phone's local storage to Huo Shaoheng.

Gu Nianzhi had highlighted the set of numbers from the SMS.

The numbers had been repeatedly sent to Huo Guanyuan's phone over several consecutive days, six years after his death.

"228.45892311956, 52.339066749.

378.89020942583, 27.358020866.

657.35966837696, 66.335066969.

980.34969677770, 49.230556660. "

A flicker of surprise shot across Huo Shaoheng's face when he saw the numbers.

Zhao Liangze and Yin Shixiong did not notice it, but Gu Nianzhi saw it, and was just as stunned by it.

Huo Shaoheng read the numbers carefully, several times. "Where did you get this set of numbers?"

Gu Nianzhi and Zhao Liangze exchanged a glance. "These are text messages we downloaded directly from the local storage on Huo Guanyuan's phone. The messages were received six years after his death. Strangely enough, the telco has no record of these messages."

Zhao Liangze handed the records from the telecommunications company to Huo Shaoheng.

Huo Shaoheng's expression grew increasingly grave as he compared the two records.

After a long moment, he finally gave a small nod. "I see. It seems that Bai Jinyi had something to do with my aunt's death, after all."

"What do you mean, sir?"

"Why do you say that?"

Zhao Liangze and Yin Shixiong did not understand what Huo Shaoheng was saying.

Gu Nianzhi, on the other hand, was not entirely clueless, thanks to the tireless research she had done over the years to learn everything there was to know about Huo Shaoheng's character. She knew him like the back of her hand...

"Huo Shao, you know what those numbers mean, don't you?" Gu Nianzhi asked without beating around the bush.

Huo Shaoheng put down the printed records. His gaze lingered on Gu Nianzhi's face for a few seconds, before moving on to Zhao Liangze and Yin Shixiong. "...This isn't the first time I've seen these numbers."

"You've seen them before?!" Zhao Liangze and Yin Shixiong shouted in unison, unable to contain their excitement. "When? Where?!"

Huo Shaoheng turned on his computer and opened a program. He entered the numbers into it as he said calmly, "This set of data are magnetic field coordinates. They represent a specific location."

The program crunched the numbers and converted them into another set of data, one that was a lot more familiar to everyone in the room. Yin Shixiong and Zhao Liangze were able to tell what it was with a single glance.

"This is... the latitude and longitude of some place in C City?!"

Huo Shaoheng nodded slowly. He glanced sideways at Gu Nianzhi.

He did not know if he should say it. Huo Shaoheng, who never hesitated when it came to action or words, wavered now as he tried to make up his mind. He quickly threw his concerns away and said calmly: "That's where the abnormal magnetic field appeared in C City six years ago."

His gaze fell upon Gu Nianzhi's face. "And that was where I rescued Nianzhi."

Gu Nianzhi had not expected the case she had taken on to be connected to her in such an obscure and indirect manner.

She was silent for a moment. After a while, she finally asked: "...But that was six years ago, four years after Luo Xinxue's death. How do you explain the gap of four years?"

Luo Xinxue had been murdered 10 years ago.

Six years ago-four years after her death-an abnormal magnetic field appeared in C City.

"The order of events should go like this..." Huo Shaoheng entered a few dates into a file on his computer. "16 years ago, something went wrong with the joint experiment between the Institute of High Energy Physics and the military. Almost everyone involved in the experiment died, including Song Haichuan, the experiment's chief engineer, and also my grandfather. My uncle Huo Guanyuan, a senior colonel in the military, was also killed. My mother survived the accident because she was pushed out of the building, but suffered from psychological issues and a memory disorder after that."

Gu Nianzhi added: "That's right. And then, 10 years ago, Luo Xinxue supposedly found out that her late husband had been in love with someone else, and killed herself because she couldn't take it. A few days before she committed suicide, a set of numbers were repeatedly sent to Huo Guanyuan's private phone through SMS. The telco has no record of these messages."

"Six years ago, Bai Jinyi submitted a report to the military, stating that she had detected unusual changes in the magnetic field in a certain place in C City. She said she would go there to collect data, and to replicate the experiment, but the experiment failed before it had even begun. The car Nianzhi was in crashed into the area and exploded, destroying the magnetic field." Huo Shaoheng's brow furrowed even as he methodically explained what had happened and typed out the timeline on his computer.

Zhao Liangze and Yin Shixiong both stared at the timeline Huo Shaoheng had typed out. They, too, had connected the dots.

"...How did Bai Jinyi know about the abnormal magnetic field in that specific location in C City?"

Zhao Liangze once tried to write a program that would monitor the magnetic fields on the planet in real time. But there was just too much data to crunch; the program worked in theory, but there was no computer with a CPU powerful enough to process the massive amounts of data the program generated. He gave up after that.

"I used to think that Bai Jinyi actually knew her stuff." Huo Shaoheng laughed. "Well, now I know better. She was tipped off."

"Tipped off? You mean Huo Guanyuan's private phone?" Gu Nianzhi's eyes lit up, but dimmed just as quickly as she thought it over. "But how was Bai Jinyi able to figure out what the numbers meant?"

"These numbers should look familiar to her," Huo Shaoheng explained. "I used to see similar numbers on my mother's computer. They use these as coordinate data."

"Okay." Yin Shixiong nodded. "That should be enough to prove that the phone is most probably in Bai Jinyi's possession right now."

"This evidence we found was obtained illegally, through unofficial channels. We can't submit it to the court as evidence," Gu Nianzhi said awkwardly. "Is there any way to get the phone from Bai Jinyi's house?"

"We'll need a search warrant." Zhao Liangze looked at Huo Shaoheng. "I can still locate the phone if we act now."

"We shouldn't waste any time, then. Locate the phone, now, while I submit a request for a search warrant." Gu Nianzhi looked at Huo Shaoheng, and was relieved when she saw that he did not object.

Zhao Liangze ran his program again. This time, he quickly found Huo Guanyuan's personal phone, and immediately began locating it through the tracking system.

Huo Guanyuan's personal phone was an old model from 20 years ago. It was not as sensitive to satellite positioning as the newer models; nevertheless, Zhao Liangze managed to pin down its location after three grueling hours refining his search method with his optimized tracking program and the help of the Nandou satellite system.

"...These coordinates point to Bai Jinyi's director's office in the Institute of High Energy Physics," said Gu Nianzhi as she double-checked with a map. "I'll submit a request for a search warrant, right away."

The application for the search warrant was submitted to the court that very night, and approved at noon the next day.

Gu Nianzhi and Zhao Liangze sat in the same car as they followed the police to the director's office in the Institute of High Energy Physics. They intended to watch the police search the office with their own eyes, to make sure they missed nothing.