Volume 1: Case 502 — The Intoxicated Frozen Corpse
Yan Xie’s ears twitched, like a wolfhound whose keen sense of smell just detected the scent of a kitten. He twisted his head around vigilantly, grabbed hold of Jiang Ting, and snatched him towards himself.
Edited by AlexPT
The chemical plant’s warehouse doors were wide open, the area fully cordoned off with police tape. Several patrol cars completed the blockade, and the plant workers, barred outside by the policemen, were standing far away and chattering amongst themselves.
“At two a.m. last night, there was a sudden power outage in the control room warehouse that cut off lighting and security cameras. The night employee Nian Bowen was about to investigate the situation when he was suddenly attacked. He was struck bare-handedly on the occipital bone at the base of his skull, causing him to lose consciousness, and subsequently the warehouse keycard was stolen.”
“Between two-thirty and two-forty a.m., security supervisor Diao Yong passed by the controlled chemical substances warehouse and noticed a flashlight beam swinging around in the columns of storage tanks. At first he thought it was the night employee Nian Bowen, so he called out to ask, but the other party immediately turned off their flashlight upon hearing a voice. When Diao Yong noticed something wasn’t right and moved closer, he was assaulted by the other party in the darkness. He was stabbed in the right chest with a sharp object and then suffered blunt force trauma on the head, causing him to fall unconscious.”
Yan Xie briskly made his way through the crowds, a police officer parting the way for him. Han Xiaomei was scampering after him, panting for breath in between reporting the case details, all while shooting surreptitious glances at the young man wearing a face mask walking behind Vice-Captain Yan.
Most likely detecting her gaze on him, the man pressed a fist against his mouth and let out a subtle cough.
“Don’t go near him, he’s sick,” Yan Xie tossed down the order without even turning his head.
“Oh.” Han Xiaomei forced herself to squash down her internal dialogue that was on the verge of overflowing from containment.
“How bad are the injuries on that security supervisor Diao Yong?” Yan Xie asked.
“Pretty severe. He was lying unconscious in the warehouse for over three hours before he was discovered; it’s lucky the stab wound wasn’t deep. He was sent to the hospital this morning at six for emergency treatment. He’s stabilized now, and can talk already. He gave a short statement to the district station police on his hospital bed, and identified his assailant as the company laboratory’s new intern, Feng Yuguang’s roommate Chu Ci.”
The officer lifted the police tape, and Yan Xie ducked under, remarking with a frown, “The victim was discovered at six o’clock this morning, so why’d it take so many hours for the police report to be put in?”
Han Xiaomei, “Er …”
They stopped as they reached the warehouse door.
Rows upon rows of gray-and-green-colored storage tanks stood inside the plant, pipes of various colors staggered in neat arrangement.
The trace evidence analysts had already finished collecting footprints and fingerprints, and were now removing their temporary floor boards. The scene of the crime, far from chaotic, was actually unexpectedly clean — if it weren’t for the few broken vessels on the floor and a small pool of blood, one could barely see any signs of a fight.
“What’s the wounded security supervisor’s body type like?” Yan Xie asked.
Han Xiaomei scrambled to flip through the notes. “Ah … um … sturdy, well built, used to be a fitness coach.”
Yan Xie gestured at the crime scene with a thumb, feeling quite mystified.
“But this scene here’s a one strike knockout. Don’t tell me that chemistry geek is also some martial arts pro?”
From behind came a wry voice. “As a matter of fact, he actually is.”
Yan Xie turned and saw a somewhat portly, middle-aged man in a suit and tie, being led over by Gao Panqing. The purple under the man’s eyes were pronounced, a haggardness in his face that was hard to conceal. The man genially reached out a hand for a shake. “Vice-Captain Yan, hello, hello, I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“You are …”
Gao Panqing explained, “He’s the plant engineer, as well as the internship director of the deceased Feng Yuguang and suspect Chu Ci, Ding Jiawang. He came by the city bureau for questioning last time, but you weren’t there. Xiao-Ma received him.”
Yan Xie, soundlessly, “Oh —”
Ding Jiawang saw Jiang Ting standing behind Yan Xie and assumed he was a senior officer of the city bureau too. He naturally reached out for a handshake, but to his surprise, his hand only reached halfway before it got blocked in the middle by Yan Xie, who said, “He’s got a cold, super contagious, be careful or you’ll get infected.”
Jiang Ting stood there wearing a baseball cap and his mask, with both hands stuffed in his pockets. He gave no hint of any intention to offer his hand.
“…” Ding Jiawang wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. “My bad, my bad.”
Yan Xie hooked his arm around Ding Jiawang’s shoulder, forcibly turning him to face the crime scene. “Director Ding, is it? You said that missing Chu Ci ‘actually is’, he actually is what?”
Han Xiaomei, watching that whole scene go down with her own eyes, instantly conjured up a whole series of wretched love-hate romance scenes in her head. From “Only I Can Touch What Is Mine” to “I Want To Let The Whole World Know I’ve Reserved This Entire Crime Scene Just For You” – the storylines so extraordinarily peculiar, the twists and turns of the plot so nail-bitingly elaborate, the emotions so bursting with richness. There was more than enough to pen tens of thousands of words for a mid-length novel.
“What are you thinking about?” Jiang Ting’s eyes narrowed slightly under the rim of his cap, icily watching her.
Han Xiaomei flinched, subconsciously lifting her hand to wipe at the nonexistent drool at the corner of her mouth. “No-nothing.”
Yan Xie heard Jiang Ting’s voice, and his ears twitched like a wolfhound whose keen sense of smell just detected the scent of a kitten. He twisted his head around vigilantly, saying, “What are you two chatting about? It’s a crime scene, what’s with the lovey-dovey business? C’mere, you come over, come over here by my side.” Saying that, he grabbed hold of Jiang Ting’s arm, insistently dragging him over to stand beside him. After that was done, he waved his hand at Ding Jiawang. “None of your business, you keep going.”
Ding Jiawang smiled awkwardly.
“Well, what happened … what happened is, we only found out later that this student, he’s not only smart, with a very high intelligence level, but he’s also capable of holding his own in a fight. You’ll normally see him going about his own business all by himself, very quiet and reticent, but when it came to an actual fight, even a well-built young man like Feng Yuguang was no match for him. One kick and the boy was sent flying out the room. With a physical ability like that, even if he isn’t a professional, he at least has studied or trained in it.”
Yan Xie was flummoxed. “Those two’ve fought before?”
“Sure did,” Ding Jiawang affirmed. “It was just about one … over one week before Feng Yuguang’s accident.”
Yan Xie shared a look with Jiang Ting, then turned and bellowed, “Why didn’t anyone disclose this information? Ma Xiang! Get Ma Xiang here!”
“It’s not the officer’s fault, it’s not the officer’s fault,” Ding Jiawang frantically headed him off. “It was me who didn’t mention this last time. Ai, it’s my bad. I thought, between two young men, a fight or two is normal. Plus, it had been some time between then and Feng Yuguang’s death, the less unnecessary complications the better …”
“Any detail, any event, anything that has to do with the case, no matter whether you think it has worth or not, they all have to be truthfully and wholly communicated to the police!” Yan Xie spoke without courtesy. “Suppose we learned of this incident last time and realized there is a very high suspicion of guilt upon Chu Ci. We would have taken corresponding surveillance or monitoring measures, then last night’s events could have been avoided, and you wouldn’t be standing here right now!”
This lambasting from Yan Xie could be deemed quite harsh indeed, and in front of everyone too. He practically ripped Ding Jiawang a new asshole, and the man’s face was flushing red then blanching white.
Yan Xie was about to keep going, but Jiang Ting raised a hand and stopped him.
“What caused them to start fighting?” Jiang Ting asked.
“To tell the truth, comrade, it’s a whole mess.” Ding Jiawang was very chagrined. With another wry smile he said, “Those two, they’ve had issues the moment they arrived here from Beijing. Chu Ci didn’t want to room with Feng Yuguang, but our company’s intern dormitory availability is limited, so you’d have to pay extra to upgrade to a single dorm. It’s not much, about five, six hundred, but to be honest, Chu Ci couldn’t afford to pay it…”
Yan Xie asked in doubt, “He’s that impoverished?”
“He’s truly quite impoverished. The boy’s from Guizhou province, taking his masters in Beijing. Every year he sends the money from his top scholarship all back to his family at home.”
“Then what about Feng Yuguang? Doesn’t his family run a business in Beijing?”
Ding Jiawang had no lack of grievances to air. “Hai, don’t they just? But what can you do when the boy doesn’t want to pay that extra money? After the whole fight thing went down, we went and had a talk with him, asked if he would be willing to move out into a single, but he said he thought it was quite nice living in a double! Kids these days, I haven’t got a clue what’s even going on in their brains!”
Stroking his chin, Yan Xie shot Jiang Ting a glance, seeking his opinion.
“The mere-exposure effect within principles of interpersonal attraction driven by subconscious expectancy,” Jiang Ting murmured.
Yan Xie didn’t understand a word. “What and what now?”
“It means that one’s mental age still remains at kindergarten stage, thus knowing only to use simple and crude methods to continually seek attention and validation.” Jiang Ting offered no further explanation, turning to Ding Jiawang. “What was the immediate provocation that led to the fight?”
“… Neither of the two could pull together a coherent story. By the sounds of it, it seemed like Feng Yuguang wasn’t able to find something when he returned to the dorm room at night, and insisted that Chu Ci took it. After a few moments of arguing, they started fighting.” Ding Jiawang used his hands to mime the distance, saying, “It was that far. Just one kick, booted him from inside to outside the door. The dorm supervisor almost called an ambulance … we were all saying how normally, you’d see him all studious and quiet. No one expected that he would be so agile when it comes to fighting.”
Yan Xie asked, “So what exactly was it that Feng Yuguang lost?”
“No one knew; he couldn’t even explain it clearly himself. Eventually he got backed into a corner and said he remembered that he forgot it in the lab himself.” Ding Jiawang threw up his hands. “What do you even call this!”
Yan Xie waved over Gao Panqing and with a low voice said into his ear, “Go check if what that Ding guy said is true, then pull all the surveillance tapes on every entrance and exit in this whole plant.”
Gao Panqing nodded and left.
“This Chu Ci’s conflict with the victim is greater than what he recounted himself.” Yan Xie nudged Jiang Ting with his shoulder, asking, “Well, Yuanfang, what do you make of it?”
Jiang Ting gave him an indecipherable glance, then walked ahead and crouched down beside the already dried blood pool on the ground.
Yan Xie followed suit and squatted in front of him, head to head. He heard him ask, “Have they run a serum chloride osmosis test yet?”
“Preliminary physical and chemical testing indicates that the blood pool was formed between two thirty and three in the morning today, which is basically consistent with the victim’s verbal account of the events.”
Jiang Ting pointed at the blood pool. “How come there’s only one spot.”
“After the security supervisor was stabbed, he fell onto his knees, and subsequently got hit over the temple with a flashlight, causing a loss of consciousness.” Yan Xie grabbed the statements and notes from Han Xiaomei’s hands. He flipped through a couple pages, then pointed it out to Jiang Ting with his finger. “See? It wasn’t a significant amount of blood loss. After the loss of consciousness, the blood flow formed a pool under the body. It’s the injury above the temple that’s more serious; it caused a certain degree of a concussion. I’ve already sent the medical examiner to the hospital for an injury assessment.”
Jiang Ting inclined his head, rising wordlessly and walking over toward the neat aisles of storage tanks.
Yan Xie followed him, watching as he took a pause every few steps and bent down to scrutinize each tank’s dispenser exit port, not knowing what the man was thinking. Before long, he had returned to the blood pool, one knee to the floor, staring intently at that dark red marking.
“I‘m not seeing anything particularly suspicious about this crime scene,” Yan Xie said, pondering. “The bloodstain, I also feel like it’s a bit weird, but I can’t quite pin down why — what do you think, Yuanfang?”
Jiang Ting gave him another glance, frowning, looking as if he had something he wanted to say but was hesitant.
“What’s up with you?”
“…” Jiang Ting glanced around. The technicians and crime scene photographers had all left, and the nearest investigative officer was in a circle of the chem company heads taking statements. No one should be able to overhear them.
Jiang Ting waved a hand at Yan Xie.
Yan Xie went to crouch beside him, only to hear Jiang Ting ask in a hushed voice, “Who is Yuanfang1?”
“… Pfft!” Yan Xie slapped a hand over his mouth.
He just now remembered that Jiang Ting knew absolutely nothing — what with being in a coma for three years, he had pretty much missed all the internet trends, slangs and memes. Besides, Jiang Ting was clearly not the type to spend much of his time online, even if he had been conscious. This man was basically an old veteran fresh out of the grave, out of touch with the times.
“You see, it’s not like I can call you Jiang Ting in front of everyone, can I? It’d be bad if someone overhears, wouldn’t it, Captain Jiang.” Yan Xie covered his mouth and explained in a whisper right by the other man’s ear, “Right now I’m just telling people you’re my friend, name’s Yuanfang. I’m just throwing together a makeshift pseudonym, ‘kay? Attaboy.”
Jiang Ting’s expression suggested he was not quite convinced. Yan Xie gave him a pat and a smile.
“… This crime scene indeed gives no reason for suspicion.” Jiang Ting eventually turned back toward the bloodstain, saying, “The blood pool is thick in the center, thin at the edges, one side somewhat disrupted due to clothing, without any wipe or swipe transfer patterns of blood visible around the perimeter. We can more or less conclude this is the primary crime scene. If there is anything to be considered weird, it would be because the surrounding area is too clean, with no other signs of struggle.”
“If the suspect is highly trained in bladed weapons, he’ll sure be able to land a critical blow in one hit,” Yan Xie agreed.
“The possibility’s there. We cannot form too many preconceptions about the suspect based solely on our own experiences. A chemistry grad student may still have received training in restricted-use knives. I’ve seen case examples such as a mass armed brawl among adults, leaving one dead and eight wounded, only to eventually discover the main perpetrator was a twelve-year-old boy, and also …”
Jiang Ting suddenly broke off. He stood up and rotated his shoulder muscles, saying, “Why hasn’t the person searching the suspect’s dorm room returned yet?”
Yan Xie’s keen senses informed him there was something here. “And also what?”
“I’m asking you, hey!”
“And also someone who knocked an armed drug trafficker dead in one blow with a liquor bottle!” Jiang Ting yanked his wrist back and said frigidly, “Thoroughly proving that there is no upper limit to human foolhardiness and luck!”
Yan Xie mouthed a “thanks for the compliment” with debonair elegance.
“Vice Captain Yan, Vice Yan!” Han Xiaomei barreled over, panting, a piece of paper in her hand. Suddenly, she caught a glimpse of a smile that hadn’t fully faded away yet on Yan Xie’s striking face. She slammed on the brakes, nearly tripping over herself.
Yan Xie performed a magical one-second face switch. “The hell are you doing, bumbling around?”
“Huang — that Huang —”
After the anti-vice raid incident, now Yan Xie only had to hear the word “huang 2” and his heart rate would rise, his adrenaline would surge, and his lower back would throb with a faint ache. “Don’t you know how to use your words, missy? Where’s the training officer, lao-Gao, lao-Gao!”
“Ai ai ai, Technical, Technical Director Huang told me to give, give this to you.” Han Xiaomei almost bit her own tongue. “It’s the preliminary document listing the stolen substances, the chemical engineering company office rush-compiled it. I, I, I … I’m still waiting to report back to Director Huang.”
Looking miffed, Yan Xie snatched away the document from her hands and glanced at it, only to see nothing but a page full of chemical names and formulas. He thus shoved it at Jiang Ting without allowing for any protest
“…” Han Xiaomei muttered something soundlessly.
Yan Xie asked, sensitive, “Are you bad-mouthing me?”
Han Xiaomei, guiltily, “Huh? No-no I’m not.”
“What you mouthed just now, yeah that one, you’re gonna tell me that isn’t an insult?”
“I wasn’t, I didn’t, that’s nons…”
“Are you two done yet?” Jiang Ting suddenly interjected coldly.
Han Xiaomei bolted three steps back in retreat, looking like a meek and frightened little mouse.
Jiang Ting pulled out a pen, and circled two chemical formulas on the page, saying, “These two can synthesize methylamine.” He circled two more. “O-chlorophenyl cyclopentyl ketone.” And one last formula. “Safrole.”
Not until the last word dropped, did Yan Xie fully understand what he meant, and his face immediately went ashen.
“All are precursors in the syntheses of amphetamine drugs.” Jiang Ting gently tossed the paper back to Yan Xie, and let out a sigh.
“Highly intelligent indeed, what a shame. Prepare to issue an APB notice for his arrest.”
“It’s not possible, let me in, I need to see, I don’t believe it … it can’t be possible!”
A female voice suddenly rose up from outside the crowd. Jiang Ting and Yan Xie both turned to find an exceptionally beautiful girl in the prime of youth, who was swaying on her feet, as if about to faint. Ding Jiawang could barely hold her up in his arms, his expression anguished and helpless.
Yan Xie suddenly frowned. “I recognize this woman.”