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558 Its Here

 "Little Ze, do you have a map of New York?" Huo Shaoheng quickly looked at Zhao Liangze. "Can you use your topography and data analysis software on the city map of New York?"

"Yes, it's very simple." Zhao Liangze concentrated on his laptop. "All the maps nowadays are digital, so it's very easy to put in." His deft fingers glided over the keyboard to enter several commands to embed the map data for New York. After the program ran several times, Zhao Liangze moved the laptop to Huo Shaoheng. "Mr. Huo, look. This is a map of the entire city."

Huo Shaoheng looked at the image on the laptop screen and lost himself in thought. The historic Juilliard School was covered in green ivy, lush and emerald. A window was half open, and the sunset filtered through the screen to fall on the burgundy floorboards. The green vines unfurled against on the burgundy floorboards, and the ends of the vines glowed with the warm brilliance of the setting sun. A straight line was drawn out and stretched in the seven o'clock position to pass through Manhattan's Central Park, the Empire State Building, and southward until it was blocked by a massive skyscraper.

"Where is that?" Huo Shaoheng pointed at the skyscraper.

"That's the World Trade Center." Zhao Liangze hesitated before using his cursor to point to the spot beside the building. "There used to be two buildings here called the Twin Towers. They're gone now..."

As to why they had disappeared, all Americans and probably everyone on the Blue Planet would never forget.

Huo Shaoheng studied were the beam of light stopped and counted silently. "...The 80th floor?"

"Looks right."

"Let's go." Huo Shaoheng got up and put on his sunglasses. "We're going to the World Trade Center."

The two men left the office building and hailed a taxi heading toward the World Trade Center located in the south side of Manhattan. The building was over 100 floors high, so the 80th floor was a considerable height. Taking the elevator to the 80th floor, Huo Shaoheng quickly used data analysis on the laptop to figure out where the beam of light was pointing to. It was a bookstore hidden in a tiny corner.

Huo Shaoheng didn't go inside but sat at a bar across the street with Zhao Liangze. They ordered two Bloody Marys and sat near the bar to glance at the bookstore across the street occasionally. There were few customers inside, but didn't New Yorkers love to read?

Zhao Liangze and Huo Shaoheng wore specially made sunglasses that had video recording capabilities. They were able to quickly capture the interior and exterior of the entire bookstore. After finishing the Bloody Marys, they paid and left.

When they returned to the New York office of the Special Operations Forces, Zhao Liangze once again integrated the photos into his image and data analysis software. A panoramic view of the bookstore on the 80th floor of the New World Trade Center building appeared on his computer screen.

"Is there something worth noting on here?" Zhao Liangze asked in confusion.

He fiddled with the beam of line originating from the ivy pattern cast on the floorboards of Tan Guiren's dorm room, then gradually set his sights on the bookstore located on the 80th floor of the World Trade Center. On the screen, the beam of line traversed the buildings' walls and fell onto a shelf in the bookstore.

Huo Shaoheng stiffened and took the mouse from Zhao Liangze to click until the image of the book on the shelf magnified. They could see that the beam of light was pointing to a photobook on the shelf, and the image on it happened to be the Statue of Liberty.

Huo Shaoheng stroked his chin and nodded before enlarging the map of New York, as well as integrating all nearby terrain. He said to Zhao Liangze, "Look, the sun at 8:00 a.m. points in the direction of the sunset. And the direction is right here." The cursor slowed down the movement and stopped at the Statue of Liberty, located on the southwest region of the city.

Zhao Liangze was instantly enlightened. Scratching his head with a chuckle, he said, "So, after all that, it ended up being at the Statue of Liberty?"

They spent an hour decoding the message left by the enemy.

"The Statue of Liberty is in the park, but it's already closed. It won't reopen until tomorrow at eight in the morning." Zhao Liangze studied the area around the Statue of Liberty. "Mr. Huo, let's go take a look tomorrow."

Huo Shaoheng nodded. "Of course, we'll go."

The next day, the Upper West Side Manhattan police station received another voicemail scrambled with a voice changer. This time, they had left another clue. "The direction where the sun sets and the Twin Towers fell, a new hope arises."

The police were incredibly excited by the precious new clue and immediately held another press conference to broadcast the news to the media. The American citizens who had been guessing all day the day before were excited yet again, and nearly the whole nation joined in solving the riddle. The riddle's popularity even extended across the oceans to the Huaxia Empire, where social media, television networks, newspapers, and magazines all covered the two newly discovered clues.

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Reports of the unlucky murdered female exchange student had nearly extinguished completely. Because the case of Tan Guiren's disappearance had again returned to the public's center of attention, Tan Dongbang's popularity skyrocketed once more and exceeded that of Bai Jiancheng. This time, Tan Dongbang was a full 8 percent ahead, which was a 3-percent increase in lead from the last time he'd surpassed the other candidate.

Huo Shaoheng and Zhao Liangze were the first ones to arrive at the next destination of the Statue of Liberty while everyone else was still mulling over the Twin Towers. The two men followed other tourists from all around the world to see the Statue of Liberty and prepared to go take a look at the top. The massive Statue of Liberty was 46 meters high, but the base itself was 47 meters high, so the entire sculpture towered at a full 93 meters. Raising her torch high, her flame was never extinguished.

Huo Shaoheng looked up at the sculpture and contemplated in silence. Could this place be linked to where Tan Guiren was being held hostage? Or was she locked up in here?

Huo Shaoheng and Zhao Liangze followed the crowd into the Statue of Liberty and took the elevator to the highest point-the crown of the statue. Standing in the crown, they looked down at New York City. The Hudson River snaking around the city seemed like a shallow stream with tiny boats that resembled toys. They walked around the crown but gleaned not a single clue.

Huo Shaoheng held onto the railing and looked at the gloomy sea ahead. He wondered if they were really looking in the right direction. The enemy had sent out voicemail after voicemail. Were they really taking them in the right direction, or were they leading them into a trap? If they investigated according to clues provided, then they would certainly fall into a trap even if they really did find Tan Guiren.

As Huo Shaoheng mulled it over, his gaze swept around the area surrounding the Statue of Liberty before looking down. Their height allowed them to see further, and from there, they could view all of New York City very clearly. Turning around, he faced the direction of the city, and at that moment, the sun shone from his back to bask the entire city in the morning glow. The quiet city seemed to wake up instantly, with cars speeding in different directions and horns blaring from across the river. The airplanes rumbling in the skies seemed near yet far as they sped toward the airport.

Amid the cacophony, Huo Shaoheng discovered that when he looked from this angle, the sunlight pointed to a blanket of darkness. However, it wasn't true darkness, but because the nearby buildings were so tightly packed, they blocked the light and only created shadows. Squinting his eyes, Huo Shaoheng pointed in the direction the sun's light cast upon and leaned over to Zhao Liangze to ask, "Where is that? Which area of New York?"

Zhao Liangze took out his phone to locate their position on the maps. He looked up at Huo Shaoheng to reply, "That's the Bronx, the least safe place in New York." This area was very close to the Juilliard School in the Upper West Side, so they were practically neighbors.

So it was there...

The burden eased from Huo Shaoheng's heart as he patted the railing. An idea had formed in his mind, and he said to Zhao Liangze, "Ok, let's go back. We don't need to be led in circles anymore."

"Oh? Go back? But we haven't found a single clue!" Zhao Liangze said blankly. He was still unwilling to give up and even took numerous photos of the crown of the Statue of Liberty from various angles so he could integrate them.

Huo Shaoheng shook his head. "No need. The enemy won't use the same tactic twice. We already used that method with the bookstore in order to find the Statue of Liberty."

"But..." Zhao Liangze frowned. "Then does Mr. Huo know what the next step is?"

"I don't know what those maniacs will do next," Huo Shaoheng replied calmly, "but I do know what I need to do next."

"Oh?! Mr. Huo already found a clue! That's great!" Zhao Liangze was ecstatic and put away all his cameras. "Then let's go back to arrange it!"

They needed the enemy to provide clues but would never allow themselves to be led around in circles.

Huo Shaoheng and Zhao Liangze strode out of the Statue of Liberty and began to formulate a plan. Huo Shaoheng called the Special Ops personnel permanently stationed in New York.

"I need the live data for all the population flow in the Bronx this past month," he said. "Send it to the A Team's inbox in five minutes."