Volume 1: Case 502 – The Intoxicated Frozen Corpse
“Go to hell with me,” said the demon with a smile.
The waves of gas and smoldering flames assaulted the senses as fragments of rocks disintegrated in the explosion, bursting forth in all directions. The heavy walls could not hold up, resulting in a new round of walls collapsing from a distance. Amidst the raging flames, the debris fell like torrential rain, sealing off the flickering lights of police cars and the loud clamoring of people in the distance.
“THE COMMAND CENTRE NEEDS REINFORCEMENTS! WE NEED REINFORCEMENTS!”
“CAPTAIN JIANG? WHERE IS CAPTAIN JIANG?!”
“NO! CAPTAIN JIANG JUST RUSHED IN! QUICK! QUICKLY NOW! HURRY! …”
Patches of color, turned mottled and twisted within the purgatory, and the clamoring quickly receding with the waves. His hands propped against the wall were being scalded, the blood flowing from his fingers rapidly vaporized in the raging flames; however, he felt no pain. He couldn’t hear anything at all. No matter how many times the same scene replayed in his dreams, the only thing he could hear was his own hot, hoarse breath, gasping for the air of the world. Then, he raised his gun at the demonic figure slowly stepping out from the sea of fire.
The figure was getting closer.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
The bullets went right through the illusory demonic figure, as if piercing through air, soundlessly throwing themselves into the flames.
His grip loosened, and the Type-92 dropped onto the ground before him, letting out a barely perceptible clatter in the sea of fire.
“I’m here.” He heard a voice that sounded like a viper come from behind him, carrying a soft laughter by his ear. In an instant, a hand covered his face and the voice said once again, “Jiang Ting. I’m here.”
For the one-thousand-and-oneth time, he turned around in his dream. Yet, no matter how much effort he put in, he could never get a clear picture of the shadow in the nightmare.
“Go to hell with me,” said the figure with a smile. “This is the end for you… forever.”
He shut his eyes. With his final thread of consciousness, he could hear the sirens of fire trucks and police cars approaching from a distance. However, the blazing fire devoured everything; as the earth trembled and cracked, countless demonic claws reached out and dragged him alive into the pitch-black abyss…
Three years later. Jianning City.
Jiang Ting’s eyes fluttered open.
Sunlight penetrated through the muslin curtains into the hospital ward, illuminating the room with a gentle glow as the light reflected off the clean snow-white walls. There were still dewdrops on the bouquet of white roses placed before the hospital bed, filling the room with a faint fragrance. The soft voice of a nurse traveled into the room through a small crack in the door.
“Patient No.538 will go through the discharge formalities today. Go and inform the head so that the bill can be prepared for the family…”
“He was in a coma for many years, and he could still wake up to get discharged! He really is…”
“Shh!” The head nurse softly commanded, “Mind your own business!”
Jiang Ting didn’t react as the sounds of footsteps traveled further and further away.
He maintained the posture of just having regained consciousness as he laid on the recliner by the window. The depths of his eyes carried a hint of coldness that was normally directed towards the nightmares he faced. Verdant and lush trees, together with the azure sky in the distance could be seen reflected in his eyes.
After a while, the door to the room was lightly pushed ajar, followed by a person carefully walking in. Jiang Ting did not turn around. The person only stopped in her tracks after arriving at Jiang Ting’s side, before she softly called out, “Brother Jiang.”
Yang Mei had meticulously permed hair; wearing a black dress paired with red nails and clutching a platinum gold purse. Under her arm was a large envelope she had just gotten from the doctor’s office. On seeing his eyes glance over, she beamed and said, “I didn’t wake you up since you were still asleep. The discharge formalities are complete, and there’s already a car waiting downstairs. Let’s go.”
After a moment of silence, Jiang Ting nodded.
This was a superb private nursing home in Jianning, so naturally they demanded a high fee even though he was only hanging on to an instrument to preserve his dear life. However, from how well his body’s condition was after regaining consciousness, he could only assumed that he had received extremely meticulous treatment over the past few years.
Regardless, since he had been in a coma for the entirety of three years, his body clearly would not be as it was.
“Have you heard? That Patient No. 538 who’s been in a coma for three years, is actually her fiance!”
“To think that such a Ms. Perfect could actually be so infatuated…”
“What could he have done to deserve such a terrible tragedy at such a young age? Is there a chance that he won’t be able to stand on his own anymore?”
Yang Mei personally pushed the wheelchair into the elevator, before the doors slowly closed on their own, cutting off the private conversations drifting in the air.
As the elevator began to descend, Jiang Ting’s expressionless countenance was reflected on the steel doors. On the other hand, Yang Mei was the one who appeared a little embarrassed behind him. With a slight cough, she said, “When you transferred hospitals back then, the nurse requested a form to be filled. On it, they asked about family members, so I was foolishly anxious at the time…”
Jiang Ting replied, “If it weren’t for you, I would already be dead.”
“How can you say that?! If it wasn’t for Brother Jiang, I would have been behind bars somewhere. What I am today, is all thanks to you…”
“But those people are still not willing to let me go.” Jiang Ting said, interrupting her. “It’s difficult for me to move now and my life is at risk. Be careful not to get involved with me.” ·
Yang Mei wanted to say something more but when she saw that Jiang Ting had already shut his eyes from the reflection on the elevator doors, she could only stomach it.
The street lights hadn’t yet turned on and already, the neon signs of the Sleepless Palace KTV were glaring brightly. A large Benz came to a screeching stop at the back door. Yang Mei quickly got out of the car first to open the door to the back seat. She was about to help him out together with the driver but Jiang Ting raised his hand to stop her.
Grabbing onto the door, Jiang Ting exerted his strength, releasing a faint groan. After a moment, he actually managed to slowly stand on his own.
“Hey, Big Brother! Be careful!” The driver instinctively reached out his hands but Yang Mei was quicker than him by a step. She rushed in first to lend an arm to support Jiang Ting, and walked him to the KTV’s back door.
It was barely a full month since Jiang Ting had regained consciousness, so he was still not used to walking. On top of that, Yang Mei was wearing high heels so the two of them swayed about as they walked on the pavement. Then Jiang Ting said, “It’s still open.”
He was referring to the KTV. Yang Mei replied, “Yeah. With the contract dispute settled by you in the past, we manage to gain access to all kinds of information by opening this place. It’s much safer that way- What are you looking at?
She trailed after Jiang Ting’s eyes and caught a glimpse of a young man carrying a backpack, standing at the edge of the road not far from the unfrequented KTV’s back door. He seemed to be waiting for someone. The moment the two parties’ eyes met, the young man quickly lowered his head and hastily walked away.
“It’s nothing,” said Jiang Ting, withdrawing his gaze. “Let’s head in.”
“The private rooms are all located on the first and second floor. The third floor is where the office and the living quarter are. I stay there most of the time. The condition is so-so, so just put up with it first for now. Hey Little Zhang! What are you standing there in a daze for? Fetch a glass of water for Brother Jiang!”
As the waiter was about to hurriedly leave, he was instead stopped by Jiang Ting. “Go deal with your work.”
The soundproofing of the living quarters was fairly good; he couldn’t hear the racket coming from the KTV downstairs. Yang Mei had already tidied up the room beforehand. The window was facing the back alley, and the furniture ranging from the desks, chairs, and decorative bits to the beds were all complete, resembling a small scale hotel room.
“There are eyes everywhere in the bar so it’s inconvenient. I’ll head out to buy a house for you to settle down in a few days time, so you’ll have a better place to hide in. Those bastards from Gongzhou won’t be able to find us here. It’s been years since then. I’m sure they’re positive that you’re already dead. If there’s still no news from them after two years, I will close down the bar, and we’ll leave together to somewhere faraway…”
As Yang Mei continued chattering away, her graceful figure paced about sorting matters out. Then, she shut the curtains.
Jiang Ting’s eyes fell onto the dressing mirror. The dim yellow lights shone on his face, casting a stark shadow over his eyelashes and the bridge of his nose; in turn, his ice-cold eyes, and a corner of his mouth was concealed in the darkness.
Yang Mei said, “China is a large country. If we were to hide in any corner of Guangxi or Yunnan, even ghosts won’t be able to find us… Hey Brother Jiang, I’ve placed your toiletries here.”
She turned around to find Jiang Ting sitting beneath the lights, the shadow cast delineating the contours of his tall, upright body. His lanky fingers were crossed with each other with the tips of his fingers giving out a soft glow.
Even with a countenance gifted by the heavens, regardless of how beautiful it was, one would never able to defeat the ravages of ill health. Just being in a horrible car crash, let alone a coma for three years, was more than enough to transform his beautiful face into something new. However, in that split second when Yang Mei looked at Jiang Ting underneath the table lamp, she felt that he didn’t look much different from before. Some of the breathtaking spirit that burst forth from his bones, was still similar to what she had seen a few years ago.
Yang Mei didn’t dare chatter on any longer for fear of disturbing him. After a long pause, Jiang Ting finally spoke with all seriousness, “I’ll return to Gongzhou once I can move around more easily. You should pack your things and return to your hometown to lie low.”
“…WHAT?” Yang Mei was completely shocked. “No, Brother Jiang! Those people won’t leave any stone unturned! If they find out that you’re alive, they will definitely come to take your life! And it’s not just them, there’s that guy too! That guy is more frightening…”
Yang Mei’s voice suddenly stopped as though she couldn’t breathe
There was a more frightening existence out there. Even if the name wasn’t spoken, it was enough to terrorize her to the point that she found it difficult to speak.
“I know,” replied Jiang Ting replied. “But when the plastic plant exploded, members of my team were in there. The explosion cost dozens of lives. I have to account for all of them. ”
Yang Mei choked. Jiang Ting waved at her, signalling that it was unneeded for her to say anything more.
“Prepare an ID, a mobile phone and a laptop for me. Buy a couple of sim cards with a fake names. GO.”
After stuttering for a moment, Yang Mei sighed, turned on her heels and left.
At this moment, the KTV had already opened its doors for business. The decorated lights in the private boxes and corridors changed irregularly. The hall was filled with loud, rhythmic music, and youngsters dressed in trendy outfits walking by in large groups. Yang Mei passed on Jiang Ting’s request to the assistant, and told the assistant to go about it cautiously. Then, she absent-mindedly went to the lower levels to patrol about.
She made a turn after walking out of the crystal elevator. All of a sudden, the door to the private room in front of her was flung open and a tall man accompanied by the utterly dreary wails of ‘Even in Death I’ll love’ came out with large strides, heading straight to the drink bar. Imbued with a spirit as lofty as a rainbow arcing through the sky, he flung the glass cup at the bartender.
“What the hell are you guys even selling?!”
Yang Mei couldn’t help herself from coming to a stop. The bartender scrutinized him carefully and replied, “My dear, it’s Long Island Iced Tea.”
“Try it yourself. Does this iced tea even have a bloody ounce of alcohol in it?”
“My dear, there’s no alcohol in it. Our bar only sells iced tea.”
“Wait. Doesn’t that mean you people are scamming your customers?!”
The bartender instantly became serious and boldly retorted. “I don’t like what I’m hearing now, Handsome. The name is ‘Long Island Iced Tea’, and it’s brewed by using fresh black tea and lemon. It’s clearly high quality iced black tea. How can you say we are scammers?”
“…” The man’s face visibly contorted. He paused for a moment, before saying in a peculiar voice, “Then how about I ask for a Bloody Mary. You can try cutting your wrist and spilling some black dog blood in it for me?”
Yang Mei was rendered speechless.
The man appeared to be in his thirties with good looks to boot. Even the ever-changing neon lights of the KTV weren’t able to drown out his deep-set, handsome looks. His hair was defiantly swept up, further lengthening his body height from 1.8 metres; closer to 1.9 metres. The t-shirt he wore under the leather jacket showed off his strong and supple muscular body. When he turned his head to speak, even the side of his neck showed a distinctly muscular outline.
The bartender said, “Oh my god. You must be joking, Handsome. You’re asking for a Bloody Mary? Don’t you worry! Let me slice the tomato first.”
The bartender was shocked, seeing the handsome man draw a swiss knife from the behind his waist and slamming it down onto the counter. Then, the man coldly said, “Do you want to do it yourself or should I help you?”
The point between Yang Mei’s brows twitched for a split second. She had been in the business for quite a while, just one glance at his handsome and uninhibited face was enough for her to tell that the man was one of those gangster-types.
“Youyouyou…” The bartender stammered and quickly backed away, flustered. “How can you say that?!…”
“Hey Handsome, I’m terribly sorry.” Yang Mei quickly strode over and beamed, “I’m the owner here. For the sake of security, my little bar does not sell drinks that have more than 40% alcohol in them, which is also the reason why we made the Long Island into normal iced tea. If you want to ask for cocktails, why don’t we mix another cup for you? Little Liu!”
The name tag pinned on the chest of the bartender had both english and chinese names. ‘Agatha Don Francisco Tony’ was printed on it. He quickly called out ‘Sis Meimei’ softly.
“Make this hottie here a Sunset Beach.” Yang Mei said, smiling sweetly at the man. “It’s on me.”
The man sized her up and down, before slowly putting the small folding knife away, mockingly saying, “The management seems to be aware of how a business is run.”
Yang Mei laughed a few times in response. “You flatter me. Our attendants didn’t explain it properly as well. Look, Long Island Iced Tea is written on the non-alcoholic drinks menu. I’m terribly sorry for the confusion we caused you.”
It would have been better if she hadn’t explained. The moment she did, the man’s expression once again began to twist in anger. “—confusion? He pointed to the wine glass and cried out in in disbelief. “You’re selling just this Master Kang Iced Tea alone for RMB208 and you have the nerve to say I misunderstood? Do you think I’m blind or stupid?!”
Yang Mei became silent.
The hottie turned around and stormed into the private room, clearly looking to call out his friends to raise a ruckus. Yang Mei wanted to chase after him but all of a sudden, a chef rushed out, staggering towards her from the direction of the rear kitchen. As though it was his last chance of survival, he grabbed onto her in one lunge. “Yang… Sister Yang! Something terrible happened! The kitchen, the kitchen freezer.”
Yang Mei lowered her head, only to see the chef’s pale expression was a shade of black and blue under the lights. His entire body was trembling as though he had caught a stroke. “A thief snuck into the freezer and seemed to have fr- fro- froze to death!“
Yang Mei stood before the large opened freezer; not a sound could be heard.
The wonderful clamoring of the bar felt like it was far away, as dead silence engulfed the large rear kitchen. The back door of the kitchen leading to the trash bins in the small alley was half opened, allowing the draught to come in like a dead person’s breath brushing against the ears of the living.
The little helpers, servers and bartender were huddled at the back, quiet to the point where the sounds of their legs trembling could be heard. After a while, the bartender who was on the brink of tears asked in a small voice, “Is he de- dea- dead al-already?”
A teenager in his twenties was lying prone on the ground with his head facing the sky. His complexion had turned purple, his eyes bulging wide with blood flowing out of his mouth and nose. His naked upper torso was covered in a layer of frost, still maintaining the posture of his two arms being slightly spreaded apart before he died.
“…” Yang Mei’s chest rapidly heaved up and down heavily. She slowly crouched down after a long while; trembling, she reached out her shivering hand to check his breath.
Somebody suddenly grabbed her hand.
“AHH!” Yang Mei jumped in fright. Turning around, she discovered it was only Jiang Ting. “Bro-brother Jiang!”
Jiang Ting did not utter a single word and instead signalled for her to move back. Yang Mei stumbled backwards, and watched him take out a pair of rubber kitchen gloves while crouching down halfway. He searched the young man’s neck and lifted his eyelids, muttering something to himself irresolutely for a while. Then he shook his head.
The server’s knees instantly collapsed onto the ground.
It was the same for Yang Mei, her legs also almost gave out, but she had seen things far worse before so she managed to keep her balance. “Th-this… What the hell happened?! Which stupid thief got chased and hid himself in the freezer?! Or who on earth was wicked and angry enough to beat him to death and throw him into our freezer?! Did anyone forgot to shut the kitchen’s back door again?! Where’s the manager?! Call Old Zhao-”
Jiang Ting stopped her. “Call the police.”
In an instant, Yang Mei looked as though she was couldn’t breath. “Brother Jiang, that’s… that’s not very appropriate, isn’t it?”
She had tried to avoid contact with the cops when Jiang Ting was in a coma for the past three years, to the point where she didn’t even dare go over the speed limit while driving. She didn’t dare to leave behind any criminal records on the public security system. Jiang Ting panted for air as he got up on his feet by propping himself against the wall. Indicating with his chin in the direction of the corpse, he explained, “There are no signs of blunt trauma around the head and chest. He didn’t reek of alcohol either and there were no external injuries. On the upper body, his nipples have shrunken, and there is a clear sign of erythema from the purplish-red swelling. It’s a frostbite from when he was alive, forming a distinct line of separation with the waistline. He wasn’t thrown in here after he was beaten to death. Instead, he froze to death alive in the freezer.”
Locked in a tight embrace, the young female waitress and the bartender called Tony shuddered uncontrollably at his words. Yang Mei eyes were staring blankly ahead, her mind in a state of chaos.
Jiang Ting sighed, “Call the cops.”
The large city with a population of more than ten million people was filled with an endless flow of traffic. Row upon rows of sky-high buildings and large advertising screens were interwoven with one another, illuminating a scene of happiness and prosperity in the bustling night of the city.
At the end of the street in Jianning City, a number of police cars flashing red and blue lights rushed onto the main road from the main entrance of the Public Security Sub-Bureau in the Fuyang District, instantly blending into the late night traffic.
“Brother Yan, stop indulging them with nonsense. Just make a call to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce! This is a fucking Master Kang Iced Tea!? At most, it’s only a Lipton! I drank, if not a thousand, then eight hundred of these when I was growing up! How can I not recognize it….”
Screams shook the earth in the dimly lit private rooms. Seven to eight youths with their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders were screaming together into the same microphone. Ma Xiang was currently resting his upper body on Yan Xie, screaming his lungs out by his ears. Suddenly, he was interrupted by his phone ringing.
Yan Xie glanced at the called ID and stopped him immediately. He received the call and answered, “Hello, Bureau Chief Wei?”
The three words ‘Bureau Chief Wei’ were akin to a curse to his ears. It would have been alright if he hadn’t hear it, but now Ma Xiang’s entire body became stiff at once. He watched on as Yan Xie glued his ear to the phone and said yes twice. As expected, his expression soon became serious. “The Fuyang District Sub-Bureau is already on their way? Yes. Okay. Okay… got it. I will bring my men over.”
“Even in death I’ll love— Won’t be happy unless I give every out—”
The music along with the colorful lights came to a sudden end. The group of youths who were dancing around chaotically suddenly shut up and turned to stare at him in consternation.
Yan Xie switched on the lights and casually tossed away the beer bottle he had used to knock against the table earlier. All serious, he said, “The command centre has news that the public have reported a case to the authorities. Someone was found dead near Fuyang Road. The cops from the police station and the sub-bureau in the jurisdiction are already on their way. Bureau Chief Wei ordered us to investigate on site.”
At once, everyone reacted as though their parents had died. “Vice-captain Yan, is this for real?!” “What happened to the half-day break that was given to us after cracking the case?” “Where’s the crime scene？Oh lord, fuck. Our cars are still parked at the city bureau….
“We don’t need cars.” Yan Xie said, entirely composed. “It’s at the rear kitchen of this KTV. The person who reported the case is the boss here.”
Everyone was struck speechless.
Yan Xie pushed open the door, sighing incessantly as he commanded, “Move, you guys. This is the fastest arrival at a crime scene in the history of the city bureau. Hey waiter! Come here. How do we get to the rear kitchen?”
The entrance to the rear kitchen was shut tight. Unaware of the situation, the chef and servers who were locked outside were still whispering to one another. They were soon forcefully shoved aside. Yan Xie completely ignored the comments surrounding him as he walked up to the door in large strides, then he banged on it loudly. “OPEN THE DOOR! IT’S THE POLICE!”
With a creak, the door was flung open. Yang Mei lifted her head. She was petrified the instant her gaze fell onto Yan Xie’s handsome countenance. Shivering, she said, “Yo- you…!”
“What’s with the ‘you’? Selling iced tea at 208 bucks; did you bump into a ghost for running a scam?” Yan Xie fished his ID from the inner front pocket of his jacket and flashed it. The two words ‘Public Security” almost blinded the crowd’s eyes. “I’m Yan Xie of the Municipal Public Security Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Unit. Step aside and don’t obstruct the crime scene. Give me a pair of shoe covers. Now where’s the body?”