Volume 1: Case 502 – The Intoxicated Frozen Corpse
After some time, Yan Xie turned to Jiang Ting and asked out of the blue. “You seem to know an awful lot about this whole drug business, huh?”
Chief Technician Huang Xing, having survived till his middle-ages with his bright, and shiny head intact, paced around furiously. With his body facing those around him; the tone of his voice resembled a machine-gun firing on unsuspecting targets. “We performed data-recovery until 11 p.m then came to work at 4 a.m— So hurry up and get it over with, so I can go home and attend my kid’s parent-teacher conference this evening! Every single time I get scolded by the class teacher like some sonnafagun’. If that brat gets another fail this time round, then you won’t see me again from tomorrow onwards. I’ll fucking whip him to death, even if it costs me my life!”
Yan Xie comforted him, “That’s nothing to worry about, he could always join the police-force in the future.”
Caught off-guard by the response, Huang Xing fixed his gaze onto Yan Xie for some time before blurting out without realising it, “No fucking way!”
“So where were we?” Huang Xing cleared his throat, quickly glossing over it as if the conversation had never happened. “Oh, right. Data-recovery.”
“We managed to restore the victim, Feng Yuguang’s, photo gallery, contact list, his recent contacts— as well as his Wechat account— but not his actual Wechat chat records. Here, as you can see, are the recent calls he’d made. The last phone call the victim received before his passing, belonged to a sim-card registered under a pseudonym, so it’s impossible to triangulate the exact location, as well as identify who the real owner is.”
Yan Xie then pointed to the second line on the list. “What about this one?”
There was an outbound call made three minutes after the last, mysterious incoming call. Said call only lasted for forty-eight seconds.
Forty-eight seconds couldn’t be considered either too long or too short. If that amount of time was spent on making appointments, then it was too long. But if that same time was used to talk about anything else— then it was too short.
“About that,” Huang Xing hummed before continuing, “The phone’s owner goes by the name of Ding Dang, who is the daughter of the intern-supervisor at the company Feng Yuguang also interns at. She’s a twenty-one year-old art student who appeared to be in frequent contact with the victim in the last month. Truth be told, I reckon these two kids fell in love with each other because of their mutual positions.”
Yan Xie smirked.
To which Huang Xing asked dubiously, “The hell you smirking at?”
“I’m smirking because you’re wrong. There’s no way that the victim and that girl were dating.” Yan Xie shook an evidence bag with a phone in it. “Wanna’ bet?”
“……” Cautiously, Huang Xing argued, “I advise you take a look at the records before boldly claiming that.”
“It’s pointless to look at them, I already know.”
“On what basis do you know?”
Yan Xie just laughed, having no intention of answering his question. Instead, he just repeated, “Wanna’ bet?”
Waving the white flag, Huang Xing gave in, “Aren’t you just trying to one-up me now?”
“What do you mean I’m one-upping you? What I have here is a reasonable deduction on account of the truth. Meanwhile, you don’t exactly know the case that well…”
A figure instantly appeared, charging to the upper-level in a flash, almost colliding head-first into Yan Xie. “Shit—!”
As Yan Xie was sharp-sighted and deft, he managed to evade the unknown white-fluid that flew through the air and in his general direction. Which in turn, meant that he was able to save one of the black T-Shirts he bought in bulk for 200 RMB during the Double Eleven Taobao sales last year. He angrily berated, “What do you think you’re doing?! Helter-Skelter!”
With one hand holding onto the cup of soybean-milk, and the other occupied carrying a bag of buns, Han Xiaomei reacted like a startled deer and cried out with a stammer, “Ah! Vice-Captain Yan!— youyouyou— I-I..”
Unable to take it any longer, Huang Xing facepalmed.
“Did you come here to work, or to have a picnic?!” Yan Xie was fuming. “Where’s Old Gao? Gao Panqing?! I told you to watch-over this girl, and yet you have allowed her to scurry off to eat buns? Drag that Old Gao’s ass from the field-team and get him here pronto!”
“No! It’s not Brother Gao, it doesn’t concern him!” Han Xiaomei quickly stopped him in a flurry. “Vice-Captain Yan’s friend was the one who requested them! I went to your office earlier and he asked me to go and bu-buy him so-something to eat—”
Yan Xie was at a loss for words.
The expression adorning his face went through several changes resembling an active volcano that was about to erupt, but was suddenly forced to yield to the supernatural force of nature which goes by the name of ‘Jiang Ting’.
“A friend of yours?” Huang Xing piped up out of curiosity.
“…Oh. He’s the eye-witness that I brought over from the crime scene. I’d completely forgotten about him as soon as I got busy.”
Seizing both the buns and the soybean milk from the wronged Han Xiaomei’s grasp, Yan Xie thought for a moment before once again stuffing them back into her arms. He tossed the evidence-bag, with the phone in it, to Huang Xing and ordered, “Find the individuals who were in frequent contact with the victim since his arrival in Jianning; including that girl, Ding Dang. Get them here and under interrogation, one-by-one, and don’t forget to ask Old Gao to compile the statements for me afterwards.” With that, he once again snatched the buns and soybean-milk from Han Xiaomei before shooting her a look, sizing her up and down before bellowing in anger, “—is that the way you’re supposed to be wearing your uniform? Stuff your shirt back into your pants!”
Han Xiaomei: “…………………….”
With the buns in his possession, Yan Xie swaggered off without a second thought.
“Ignore that dumb fuck.” Huang Xing patted Han Xiaomei, who was on the verge of tears, on the back. Pursing his lips at Yan Xie’s retreating figure, he consoled her, “—why do you think a thirty-ish year-old guy like him hasn’t got himself a wife yet?”
Sitting on the edge of the office desk, Yan Xie gave the steaming-hot plastic bag a little shake in front of Jiang Ting. Before the man could reach out and take it, Yan Xie pulled it back and slapped the case-analysis report onto the tabletop instead. “Here, duty comes first.”
Hand hovering in mid-air, Jiang Ting unhurriedly withdrew it. “No.”
“Your life is currently in my hands, so might I advise you to listen to what you’re told…” replied Yan Xie.
As Jiang Ting looked up, the color of his complexion was visibly as pale as icy snow. “No.”
Yan Xie was stupefied by the sight of how black his pupils were, along with the paleness of his face. It took him a while to recover, but when he did, he personally slid a straw into the soybean-cup and removed the thin layer of paper stuck to the bottom of a bun. Afterwards, he presented them to Jiang Ting with both hands.
Jiang Ting stared at him silently for a few seconds, before eventually leaning forward to take a sip of the soybean milk in the man’s hold. He then took the rest of the breakfast over, as if he’d forgiven Yan Xie.
Knowing that he was in the wrong, Yan Xie said, “Tell me then, if you’ve got low-blood sugar, why didn’t you ask me to stop somewhere and get something to eat on the way here? Who’s to blame here? Oh right, I have half a packet of biscuits lying around somewhere— look, it’s not like I’m starving you on purpose right..”
“Fan Zhengyuan was a druggie?”
Jiang Ting took a bite out a bun, while flipping through the case-analysis, but he paused when reading the autopsy-report.
“Snorting and intravenous injections; he’s an old fox at this. What’s up?”
Jiang Ting pointed to a line of explanation on the analysis report. “Then why do you all seem to believe that the drug with the amphetamine-composition, which was found in his pants pocket, was indeed for him to take?”
The question he asked was similar to the one raised by Yan Xie in the case-meeting earlier.
With an air of amusement, Yan Xie asked in response, “Why isn’t that the case then?”
“Heroin is usually used intravenously. The stimulating effect it can have, due to the spread of the increased amount of dopamine in the body, is incredibly astonishing. Once the drug is injected into the body over a period of time, the number of dopamine receptors in the brain would reduce at a rapid rate. Hence, in order to achieve that same level of stimulation, all heavy drug addicts will continuously increase the amount they inject. Yet, the amphetamine-compound found within Feng Yuguang’s body was a gateway-drug used for luring-in rookies. The rush Fan Zhengyuan felt would be deemed as next-to-nothing, so it’s very unlikely that he will choose to take it himself.”
Yan Xie brazenly sized Jiang Ting up and down, his eyes flickering slightly. It was then followed by the emergence of a peculiar grin on his face. “How are you so sure about that? Maybe he took it as a snack since it’s convenient and cheap.”
“That’s not possible.” As he flipped through the pages of the report, Jiang Ting elaborated indifferently, “Heroine is only sold expensively to fool amateurs. In truth, who knows how much glucose and talcum powder were mixed in during the manufacturing process of the goods in the market. It’s unlikely that the price for those will fetch as high as those made from the amphetamine-compound. Furthermore, before the effects of morphine wore off, mixing it with other pumps will only serve to upset their body further, which is why it makes no sense for Fan Zhengyuan to do that.”
Only the rustling sounds of pages turning could be heard from the office. Nothing else.
“…You seemed to know an awful lot about this whole drug business huh?” Asked Yan Xie after some time.
This conversation was obviously straying off-course. Finally noticing something was amiss, Jiang Ting looked up, his eyes instantly interlocked with Yan Xie’s acute, penetrating gaze.
“—What are you looking at?” Jiang Ting retorted, “I’ve been working in drug enforcement for more than a decade, why wouldn’t I be knowledgeable about it?”
It was at that moment that the phone rang out of blue, cutting off Yan Xie’s response to his answer.
“Hey, Old Qin! Yeah. Fine, just shoot.. yeah, yeah. You found it?”
Jiang Ting was in the dark about what Qin Chuan said on the other end of the line. Soon, Yan Xie hopped off the office desk and picked up his car keys at breakneck speed. Grabbing his coat, he said, “Okay! Go do a sweep of that Fan’s house! Also, send me the other address and I’ll be on my way.”
Jiang Ting was still leisurely munching-away on his bun, when all of a sudden, Yan Xie took the plastic bag from him. “Stop eating! Quickly, follow me; you can eat on the way to the car.”
Frowning, Jiang Ting asked, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“The anti-drug unit found another one of Fan Zhengyuan’s hidden base of operations, apart from his house. They’re currently preparing to arrange an informer to lead us there.” Sneaking a glance at the bun inside the bag, the corner of Yan Xie’s mouth twitched in disgust. “Ugh, custard. You’re quite a picky eater aren’t you? Can you get any more delicate than this?”
With that, he turned around to head outside while carrying the bag of buns in hand. All of a sudden, he froze in his tracks when Jiang Ting unexpectedly pulled him to a stop by his cuff. “Wait.”
Yan Xie stood as Jiang Ting sat motionlessly in the armchair. He watched on as the man waved the case-analysis report and said, “Your investigation is heading in the wrong direction.”
The entire situation seemed like a repeat of the heated discussion held in the conference room three hours prior, except now their roles were reversed. In this case, the one arguing back strongly was now Jiang Ting.
Although Yan Xie was laughing deep down, he did not show it on the surface. Instead, he asked with an apparent chill in his voice. “Define ‘wrong’.”
“The basis of why the Criminal Investigation Unit suspects Fan Zhengyuan is involved with drugs, is because they found drug remains on his body, as well as his suspected involvement in an armed robbery case. But you and I both knew that the armed robbery had nothing to do with Fan Zhengyuan, and the sole reason he even appeared to begin with was to take my life. The only exception is that his plan got foiled midway.”
“So?” asked Yan Xie on purpose.
“Since Fan Zhengyuan’s killer could take something from his body, he could just as easily plant something in return too. How can you confirm that the drug remains in his pocket wasn’t a tactic used by the killer to throw-off the police’s investigation?”
Standing with his arms crossed, Yan Xie seemed to be lost in his own train of thoughts. He lazily drawled, “No can do. You don’t have any evidence to back up your claims. Besides, I don’t see what the problem is for the police to investigate more into Fan Zhengyuan, unless it benefits the killer?”
—Deputy Director Wei’s question was the crucial point which made Yan Xie’s argument get locked in a stalemate during the case meeting. He wanted to know how Jiang Ting would approach this issue.
“It does,” Jiang Ting answered. “He’s trying to stall for time.”
His answer made Yan Xie pause in his tracks, for a brief moment.
“I suggest that you dispatch some men to follow Fan Zhengyuan’s lead, while personally interrogating Hu Weisheng, doing a full sweep of his house, bank accounts, as well as his mail.” Jiang Ting added, “The killer did not hesitate to commit murder right under your Vice-Captain’s very nose, so that means that, to him, the current state of affairs which need to be covered up, have reached a critical point. If he was able to throw-off the police’s investigation, causing it to slow as a result, then there’s a high-chance of Feng Yuguang’s death turning out exactly the same as Gongzhou’s case was ruled— with an unknown outcome.”
As both of them stared at each other momentarily in silence, Yan Xie narrowed his eyes, “…Something similar happened when you were investigating the case back then?”
However, Jiang Ting remained as unfazed as ever, even under his scrutinizing gaze. Getting up to retrieve the plastic bag, with the buns in them, from Yan Xie. He then tossed it into the waste-paper bin without hesitation.
“They’re cold now,” he said.
The old-machinery factory in Jianning was once the most dazzling jewel in the entire southwest region. In the previous decade, during the seventies, the eastern suburbs had established a massive, busy industrial zone, with a large-scale production line equipped with their own hospital, school, post-offices and several other facilities. When the workers retired, their jobs were passed onto their children. The state-enterprise would give away food, oil and meat coupons, and even went as far as to give bicycle and refrigerator coupons during the lunar new year. This secure employment was handed down from generation to generation. The majority of the girls in Jianning were proud to be married into the homes of the workers from the eastern suburbs.
However, this glory began to dwindle near the end of the eighties-era, up till the nineties where there was a sudden upsurge of workers getting laid-off. The state-owned large factories henceforth fell, and tanked into sorry state.
The once prosperous residential neighborhood, in the olden days, were now deserted, with not a single soul in sight. Underneath the rays of the setting sun, piles of ruins and broken walls could be seen as large words reading: “Demolish” were plastered all over the place. The small shop set up in a plastic shack, was covered with all sorts of gaudy and discolored instant-noodles posters. A few dirty-looking children were crouching as they played by the ditch, occasionally emitting a loud shrilling shriek, heavily laced with a thick regional accent.
Even if someone drove a Ferrari here, it was no different than going on a pedicab, so Yan Xie gave up entirely. He braked at once and killed the car engine before saying, “No, I can’t. If we continue up ahead, then it’ll be like doing parkour. So I’ll have to trouble Captain Jiang to go the rest of the distance on foot.”
In the old-fashioned tubular building, even if it’s a stretch to say that 90% of the rooms are vacant, it’s fair to say that over half of the apartments are currently unoccupied. Even when the last rays of sunlight were seeping in from the outside, the passageway was still pitch-black. If one went any further, the eerie dampness and mustiness that had accumulated over the years, would spring forth without a moment’s hesitation, assaulting their faces. Caught by surprise, a shiver crept up Jiang Ting’s body as he sneezed. “Achoo!”
Borrowing the light source from the flashlight to make his way up ahead, Yan Xie remarked, “Are you that delicate?”
Jiang Ting refused to entertain him.
Yan Xie squeezed sideways through the corner of the passageway, that was littered with a mountainous pile of junk, as he carefully made his way up the narrow space on the staircase. Finally, he managed to reach the highest floor in the building—the sixth floor. Clothes and quilts were hanging in suspension outside the walkway, facing the veranda. All of the doors on the side of the walkway were shut tight. As they headed further in, the fourth run-down, yellow wooden door could be seen to be sealed with police tape.
Hugging his arms against his chest, Jiang Ting slowly took in the surrounding environment when suddenly his vision was blocked by an army-green coat that Yan Xie handed over. “Mmhmm.”
“No thank you.” Jiang Ting didn’t make any move to receive it. “Won’t be able to afford the payout if I ruin it.”
Only dressed in a black, short-sleeved t-shirt, it showcased and emphasised his firm and supple back-muscles, making them more distinctive than usual. Allowing no room for questions, Yan Xie threw the coat over his head and said, “That’s enough. If you happened to catch a cold, or some kind of disease, wouldn’t I be…”
Jiang Ting eventually laid out the truth. “When was the last time you washed your clothes?”
They stared at each other in silence. It only took a moment for Yan Xie to use the key to unlock the door, before coldly saying, “Put it on and don’t talk so much.”
The door was damp and dark. When the door was flung open, an inexplicably weird stench came oozing out. With his nose covered, Yan Xie went to switch on the lights, but to no avail as neither expected for the power-meter to be in complete ruins. For lack of a better option, Yan Xie could only continue to use his phone to light up their surroundings; only to be greeted by piles of rubbish that were strewn about the floor. The room had already been inspected by investigators twice before, so the burrow was truly a nasty sight to behold.
Carefully stepping through the door, Jiang Ting came to stand next to a low wooden bed, his brows slightly knitted together as he examined the surroundings.
“The field personnel already came here to search twice. With Old Gao on the job, and his skills, I bet all of the rats scurrying about this place have already been registered in the record.” Yan Xie gave him a jab with his elbow without care. “Why? Captain Jiang has never seen the homes that the poverty-ridden live in? Please, do share your thoughts.”
Jiang Ting took Yan Xie’s phone. Bending down to a semi-crouching position on the floor, he shone the light at the areas under the bed, at the cracks in the floor, and at the foot of the wall. He became lost in his thoughts for a brief moment.
Yan Xie sneered, “I’m asking you a question.”
“I have nothing to say.” Jiang Ting replied calmly, “After all, someone at the bottom-end of the poverty-ladder like myself naturally grew up in this kind of environment.”
Needless to say, his words caught Yan Xie was off-guard.
Getting up on his feet, Jiang Ting walked over to the side of the table, where several thermos flasks were arranged side by side, along with a heap of various bits and bobs accumulated on a plastic dish, that was so worn-out that it was difficult to tell what the color was originally. There was also instant noodles that were left unfinished and a meth-pot placed next to each other. The oil in the soup had already congealed to form a thick layer of mold.
As Jiang Ting stood there, rooted to the spot, his long and thin black brows were knitted together, as though he had encountered a problem he couldn’t solve. Amidst the dances of the light and shadow, the curved line delineated the contours from his forehead, his nose bridge and his lips, to his very neck joined together to form a unique and graceful silhouette.
In a flash, he dragged the chair and sat down before Yan Xie had the time to stop him. Seeing that he was sitting directly in front of the bowl of foul moldy instant noodles, he looked as if he was going to reach out to pick up the chopsticks at any time.
With a raise of Jiang Ting’s hand, Yan Xie’s voice came to an abrupt stop.
Soon after, Jiang Ting then looked up as he gazed thoughtfully across the room. His eyes naturally fell on a shattered window forcefully and barely sealed up with newspaper.
Unable to put on a finger on what he was staring at, Yan Xie could only focus his utmost attention, without blinking. He watched on as Jiang Ting got up abruptly and walked towards the window, searching around the greasy and dirty window sill and frame by the light. All of a sudden, he then reached out to push open the doors of the already deformed wooden window with full force.
The window was pushed open and in swept the evening breeze, dispersing the nauseous and disgusting stench in the room in a split second.
“—come on.” Jiang Ting pointed to the window, his voice as calm as ever as he commented, “Well, aren’t you guys sloppy at your job.”