Volume 1: Case 502 – The Intoxicated Frozen Corpse
“You want people to think that we’re a couple?”
“I can be gay for ten minutes.”
The entrance to the street was located four to five hundred meters away from the Sleepless Palace KTV bar. Yan Xie simply found a spot to park his severely dented Grand Cherokee, before informing the traffic police and heading back to where he came from; with the entire trip taking only just about ten minutes.
“What’s the matter with you?” Yan Xie stood before Jiang Ting with his chin raised. “Where is your girlfriend? She’s just letting you running around like that?”
Jiang Ting’s complexion still appeared pale but that was because of debilitation since he had been bedridden for so long. On hearing that, he smiled and said, “The doctor requested me to walk around if I have nothing to do. Yang Mei went out already so I went out to go around on my own.”
Intending to support him, Yan Xie reached out his hands only to be stopped by Jiang Ting indicating that it wasn’t necessary. So he withdrew his arms to light up a cigarette. “Do you mind?”
Jiang Ting asked, “Can I have one too?”
Yan Xie was quite surprised. It was rare of him to come across guys who didn’t smoke at all. Yet, without being able to put his finger on it, he subconsciously felt that Jiang Ting was one of them. He was probably led astray by his refined and educated demeanor.
“Thank you,” Jiang Ting took the cigarette and lit it up. Taking in a long breath, he said, “It was all thanks to Officer Yan earlier; I’m terribly sorry. The car repair fees-”
Yan Xie cut him off, “It’s fine. That’s a police car! I just need to head back to report the damage, and it’s over and done with.”
Through the wisps of white smoke emerging from the cigarette, Jiang Ting shot a meaningful glance at him which seemed to express that he never expected a police car of Jiangning Public Security would be so grand. It prompted a laugh out of Yan Xie but he didn’t make any move to explain it further, only saying, “There are still some doubts about the case so I want to investigate the crime scene again. I’ll send you home on the way. What happened just now? You were standing motionless in the middle of the road. Were you too terrified to move?’”
Jiang Ting hesitated momentarily. “Just now… I was a little dazed by the accident. It might be PTSD.”
“Oh, and you still dared to come out alone.”
Jiang Ting replied, “Nevertheless, I have to learn to walk on my own. Otherwise, won’t I just become a cripple?”
He was walking very slowly. Yan Xie didn’t urge him to move faster. Both of them slowly walked along the sidewalk, the neon lights of the Sleepless Palace KTV shining brightly ahead of them. Yan Xie then indicated the place with his almost extinguished cigarette butt and joked, “You have such a rich and loving girlfriend; much better than those of us with fixed income. So there’s no reason for you to be scared of becoming crippled.”
For lack of a better option, Jiang Ting shook his head. Before he could respond, he heard Yan Xie smoothly seizing the chance to naturally ask him, “How did you two meet each other?”
Vice-Captain Yan’s skill in fishing information weren’t for show. It turned out, he had been waiting for this moment all along.
“Years ago, we left the county town to work in Gongzhou for a couple of years. After earning some money, I returned back to my hometown. She then went on to Jianning from Gongzhou and opened up this KTV. Come to think of it, she’s more daring to venture than I am, and the business just became better and better. Three years ago, I got caught up in a car accident when she told me to help her out in Jiangning.”
“Speeding in the rain. Almost lost my life because of it.” Jiang Ting sighed. “Even though she’s my girlfriend, it’s not nice of me to involve her like this with the way I am now, don’t you think so?”
Unexpectedly, Yan Xie promptly agreed. “That’s true. What’ll become of you two in the future? Gonna drag it out?”
“I’ll break up with her after some time.” Jiang Ting smiled and continued, “I can’t help much by staying here either, so I’ll return to the county town to live my days.”
Since the KTV is a crime scene now, it was forced to stop operating so the entrance was simply unlocked and desolate. The two of them chatted as they entered through the doorway. Lifting his head, Jiang Ting caught sight of Yang Mei waiting expectantly for him from where she stood in front of the bar. “Brother Jiang!”
Jiang Ting responded, “Ah, I…”
Yang Mei’s eyes were practically bursting with joy. “Oh my! You gave me such a scare! Brother Jiang, where did you go? Why didn’t you tell me? How can you just run off like that with so many cars out there?”
Jiang Ting was speechless.
“I waited for you for half a day. Why didn’t you pick up my call? Where’s Little Zhang? Why didn’t Little Zhang go with you? What would I do if something bad happened to you? Quick, hurry up and sit down. It’s so late now, have you eaten? What did you eat? Hey manager, come here! Go inform the kitchen to serve the steamed egg custard I previously asked for now!”
Jiang Ting completely loss for words.
Lifting his brow, Yan Xie smiled without saying a word.
Yang Mei was practically orbiting around him, so Jiang TIng could only hastily deal with her as he explained his earlier incident with Yan Xie on the road. Instantly, Yang Mei was eternally grateful to Officer Yan. She urged Jiang Ting to head up for dinner and insisted that she must act the host and personally treat Yan Xie to a meal.
“There’s no need. I’m here to look over the crime scene. I have to rush back to the City Bureau later.” Yan Xie smiled and said, “Go ahead to whatever you were doing. Just call a waiter to bring me to the rear kitchen will do.”
Yang Mei immediately put down her purse and shoes. “What’s there to be busy with? Come, come! I’ll bring you there. After this place was closed off with the barrier tapes, I asked my staff to seal off the rear kitchen. Wasn’t it all meant for cooperating with the police? I’ve reminded my waiters again and again to not run their mouths in public, fearing that they’ll leak out classified information about the case.”
Putting on shoe covers and gloves, Yan Xie replied, “You didn’t have to, since you don’t know anything that’s classified anyway.”
Yang Mei simply flashed a winning smile from where she stood at the doorway of the rear kitchen.
The heavy makeup made it difficult for people to make out her actual age, but her facial features and garments were breathtakingly beautiful. Her finely permed hair was even sprayed with a little perfume—Yan Xie had never met a woman who would still dressed herself immaculately right in her own home. The only explanation for this was that she knew Jiang Ting would come back.
Yan Xie found the whole situation to be quite fascinating.
This woman was very nimble; she knew the right things to say. When she handled affairs, she would do so with a slick, slyness that she’d garnered from people of all walks of life. And as for the fiance who, according to her, came from a small county town. The only thing he was qualified to do was labor work, and now his body had become frail from being bedridden for so many years. There didn’t seem to be any energy left in him.
No matter how he saw it, the two of them weren’t a destined match at all. Yet, Yang Mei was casually throwing him an admiring gaze whenever she glanced his way.
Yan Xie’s eyes landed on the freezer. Suddenly, he recalled the moment he’d handed Jiang Ting a cigarette earlier on—the latter had accepted it; lowering his head slightly, the silhouette of his neck bending in a graceful arc; then he lit up the cigarette with the lighter in hand, and softly breathed out a breath of air.
That appeared to be a reflexive habit from being offered cigarettes by others.
As he opened the freezer, with a casual air, Yan Xie asked, “You seem to be doing great with your boyfriend.”
Yang Mei smiled in acknowledgement.
“How did you guys meet?”
“In our earlier years, we left our county town to look for work. After working in Gongzhou for a couple of years, he returned back to his hometown. Eventually, I came to Jiangning to open up this bar. My business went better and better as days went by, so I asked him to come and help me. I never expected that he would get involved in an car accident on the way here.” Yang Mei couldn’t stop herself from sighing with sorrow. “Come to think of it, it’s my responsibility that he ended up like this.”
Shaking his head, Yan Xie also sighed as he casually shut the freezer’s door; then he strolled through the rear kitchen towards the back door.
“Ah. I’m going to check out the road. There’s no need for you to tag along,” said Yan Xie, waving his hand without looking back. “Go do your own thing.”
There weren’t much people around in the small and dirty narrow back alley. The KTV had stopped operating for the day, which made it all the more deserted. Yesterday, the technicians had dug deep and scrounged the entire area, even going as far as turning the entire trash bins upside down, so there really wasn’t any point in investigating the area again.
Holding onto his phone, Yan Xie made a call while trailing after the path the deceased had came from in the surveillance footage. “Hello Ma Xiang, you guys back yet? Access the network and help me look up a person.”
The other side of the phone seemed to be in a chaotic state, probably because the technicians were working overtime. Ma Xiang shouted in a booming voice, “OKAY—Who is it?”
“Lu Chengjiang,” answered Yan Xie. “It’s the guy in the wheelchair at the crime scene last night. Find out his birthplace, the school he graduated from, working experience, and even his room rental records if there’s any.”
“Why? He’s a suspect?”
“Can’t tell for now. Investigate him first.”
The best thing about Ma Xiang was his efficiency in getting the job done. Not long after Yan Xie walked out of the back alley and pacing about in the small, spacious trail, as he moved south along the edge of the curb while searching for clues, he heard a voice coming from the receiver, “Got it—Lu Chengjiang. His birthplace matches the statement recorded last night. He graduated with a college degree, spent a few years in Gongzhou with Yang Mei serving as bouncers for a nightclub together.”
Yan Xie lurched to a sudden stop, obviously taken aback by the revelation. “You’re positive it’s the same guy?”
“Positive. It’s written here in the census register.”
“… what happened next?” Yan Xie pressed further.
“After that, at the nightclub, Yang Mei got involved in a couple of organized gambling and fighting cases. If you want details, we need to look into the records over at Gongzhou. However, she got lucky. A lawsuit filed against her for intentionally causing harm was dropped, and she was released from custody after being caught for accommodating gamblers. Let me see… Oh! Not bad, she must have spent quite a dime. It’s not easy to get bailed out in Gongzhou.”
Yan Xie asked, “What about Lu Chengjiang?”
“He went back to his hometown after she was suspected of intentionally causing harm to others. Gives me the impression that the two of them don’t seem to have a deep affection for each other.”
Yan Xie lit up another cigarette. He continued tracing the path of the deceased last night, deep in his thoughts as he stared at the patterns on the tiles of the sidewalk.
“We need to check his birthplace records to dig up anything on Lu Chengjiang in his hometown. But the crash that happened three years ago matches what he said. As for Yang Mei, after she was bailed out, she then went to Jiangning and opened up this KTV. She even got into a lawsuit with the former landlord because of contract disputes and unexpectedly emerged swiftly victorious. The hell, Brother Yan! If this woman doesn’t have a benefactor watching over her, then she must have been blessed by gods to live a successful life. Otherwise, how could she manage to avert disaster every single time?”
The sky gradually darkened, with the street lamps lighting up in quick succession. Yan Xie tore his gaze away from looking off into space. Suddenly, something tiny shone; flashing indistinctly from the side of a sewer a few steps away from him.
At first, Yan Xie didn’t take intend to take notice of it. However, a few seconds later, some kind of intuition from over than a decade of investigative work at the front line suddenly triggered a bit of a warning in his mind.
Yan Xie walked ahead before crouching down. He found a small shining item quietly lying in the dirt at the edge where the sidewalk met the road—
It was the slider of a zipper.
Yan Xie picked it up with two fingers and examined the small piece of metal half-wrapped with leather against the light; squinting a little at it.
“What’s going on, Brother Yan? You made a new discovery at the crime scene?”
“Investigate Yang Mei’s lawsuit files at Jiangning later, and tell the technicians not to leave the office yet.” Standing up on his feet, Yan Xie took the slider and stuffed it in an evidence bag before continuing, “I’ll return to the City Bureau after half an hour. There’s a big discovery at the crime scene. If it’s verified, then it’ll be a clue that will lead to a breakthrough.”
He then hung up the phone. As Yan Xie turned to go, he came to a sudden stop.
Not far from the side of the back alley, Jiang Ting was standing quietly under a street lamp; his hand holding a large plastic bag of take-out food.
Their eyes met for a another beat, the sounds of cars passing through the streets in the remote distance was faintly discernible. One by one, moths struck the street lamps, letting out a faint popping sound.
Walking towards him, Jiang Ting handed Yan Xie the warm plastic bag and gently said, “Officer Yan, don’t have dinner too late.”
His gaze swept passed the zipper’s slider in the transparent evidence bag. The instant his fingertip touched Yan Xie’s, they parted.
The both of them stood face-to-face, the distance between them barely half a foot apart. Yan Xie caught sight of his own figure mirrored in Jiang Ting’s light coloured eyes. Soon, he realized that the muscles of his lower jaw had stiffened up unconsciously, until his countenance had taken on a harsh cast, as if encountering a great enemy.
Something was still very off.
The face of the man before him appeared too sick for him to even try hiding the fact. He was a far cry from being a threat.
“… Got it.” After a pause, Yan Xie took a step back, his countenance darkening as though trying to conceal something. Then he nodded and said, “Thanks.”
Jiang Ting looked on unconcerned from where he stood. He didn’t move and simply nodded with a smile on his face, not uttering a single word. His eyes trailed after Yan Xie as he swung around and walked off from under the streetlamp.
The sounds of high heels clacking against the ground could be heard from a small alley. Yang Mei came to a stop behind Jiang Ting as she watched Yan Xie vanishing into thin air at the end of the street. She threw Jiang Ting an anxious look. “You want to help him solve this case?”
The look of gentle, tranquil water on Jiang Ting’s face was gone. He flatly said, “If the case isn’t solved, the cops will keep eyeing us. Do you want them to watch us for a couple of months?”
“…then-.” Yang Mei hesitated for a moment before asking, “Then, how do you want go about the investigation?”
Lowering his eyes, Jiang Ting didn’t answer immediately. It looked as though he was deep in his own train of thoughts.
Wrapping a thin shawl around her shoulders, Yang Mei raised her head to stare at the yellow glow cast from the streetlamp; it blanketed Jiang Ting’s hair and one side of his cheek like a layer of a thin golden gauze with fine texture.
No matter how many years had passed, the Jiang Ting in Yang Mei’s eyes was no different from the first time she met him. Neither the years of enduring hardships, nor the torment of a near-death experience had robbed him of his overpowering prudence in his capability to adapt to any kind of situation.
“Zipper,” muttered Jiang Ting.
Yang Mei stared at him without blinking.
Suddenly, Jiang Ting looked up and asked, “Do you have anything you want to sell to a second-hand shop?”
Yang Mei asked in reply, “Second-hand shop?”
“Fendi?” blurted Ma Xiang in surprise. He received the zipper in the evidence bag and placed it under a light.
Yan Xie gobbled down his grilled eel rice take-out and mumbled, “Uhuh.”
The top portion of the slider was covered in black sheepskin with yellow edging decorating the sides, while the gold on the lower-half had the Fendi logo engraved on it. The entire thing still appeared very new, yet the frame at the tail section that was supposed to connect to the sliding base was loose; most likely due to having been pulled roughly, or being accidentally hooked onto something and forcibly pulled apart.
Ma Xiang was a little puzzled. “What can this prove?”
One hand clutching onto the oily chopsticks, Yan Xie pushed the screen on his desk at an angle, indicating for Ma Xiang to look at the Fendi official website.
“A zipper covered in black sheepskin and painted yellow edgings. It was only used in the backpacks released this season targeted at males. Can you see it? It’s this one.” Yan Xie tapped a picture with his chopsticks, enlarging it before continuing, “Considering it’s a seasonal item and it was just released not long ago, there is a purchase limit. On top of that, all luxury brand stores would keep a record of the customers’ information. I have already ordered the main investigation team to get surveillance footage from the specialized store at the international financial centre.”
Ma Xiang cried out, “F*ck? There’s something like this?!”
“Whether it works or not is just a matter of taking a trip down there. Even if I got it wrong, we won’t suffer any losses either. How about Yang Mei’s files that I asked you to look into?”
Struck dumb, Ma Xiang could only recover after a time. He then hurriedly presented a brown envelope with both hands.
Yan Xie reclined back onto the chair, opened up the files and began reading. Ma Xiang sneakily took a piece of eel and stuffed it into his mouth at once. It was so delicious that his eyes were clouded with tears.
Yang Mei’s case wasn’t that complicated. It was mainly due to the former owner suddenly raising the price and breaking the promise before they signed. In a fit of rage, Yang Mei sued the other party in court. However, since there were loopholes in the contract and the formalities weren’t completed yet, there was a high chance she would have lost the lawsuit and be dragged into an endless and complicated affair of appeals. Based on Yan Xie’s half-professional insight, it would have been best if Yang Mei had admitted defeat and dropped the lawsuit before the court session started. Otherwise, there was a huge possibility that she would hold up her business and suffer a huge payout as a loss.
But she won instead.
It had nothing to do with the lawyer. At least, after Yan Xie finished reading records of the court hearing, he didn’t think that the lawyer was of any fucking use at all. The only explanation he could think of was that the judge had been absolutely smitten with Yang Mei’s exceptional beauty.
Or maybe, similar to twice before when this woman had miraculously escaped imprisonment at Gongzhou, someone in the upper levels well concealed behind thick fog had once again lent her a helping hand.
The third time Ma Xiang attempted to stealthily reach towards the eel, Yan Xie instantly struck out like lightning, hitting the back of his hand with his chopsticks. “–OWWW!”
“Two packs of instant noodles ain’t enough for you? Be careful to not imitate our neighbour Head Gou’s tragedy. His body size is the result of his mom feeding him extra meals!”
Ma Xiang felt incredibly wronged. “The vast majority of our men eat instant noodles when working overtime and the best we can have at most is an instant hot pot . As a leader, not only are you not being an example and sharing your hardships with your people, you still dare to actually receive capitalist preferential treatment?”
Yan Xie scoffed, “This godfather of yours exchanged his handsome looks for food. If you’re capable, then go swipe one yourself.”
Ma Xiang cried out, “What? That KTV boss seriously took a fancy to your handsome looks?!”
“No wonder there was something wrong with the way she looks at you! Her eyes were darting around your strong and supple muscles and biceps with such deep interest! How could that weak gigolo boyfriend of hers ever match up to your manly hormones? Brother Yan, work harder; as whether our comrades can sing karaoke for free will be up to you! …”
Yan Xie angrily told him off, “Just get lost already! Stop talking nonsense about my biceps! You want people to think that we’re a couple?!”
Ma Xiang instantly became as soft and malleable as water. “If you give me grilled eel rice, I can be gay for ten minutes…”
Yan Xie then unabashedly kicked Ma Xiang off the table. The latter expressed that his pink heart of glass had been shattered into pieces. As he was clamoring, the phone suddenly rang. One hand clutching onto his grilled eel rice lunch box, he picked up the call with the other. “Hello? I’m Yan Xie. Spill it if you have something to say.”
“Brother Yan! We’ve found the surveillance footage at the international financial centre! In mid-April, the deceased had gone into Fendi’s store and bought the male backpack you mentioned at eighteen thousand yuan—fully paid in cash. We’ve retrieved the HD footage and the transaction record!”
As a straight guy who had never seen that aspect of society, Ma Xiang’s eyes instantly widened on the spot—‘What?! Eighteen thousand yuan?!’—was literally scribbled all over his face.’
Yan Xie praised, “Well done. Did you get the deceased’s identity?”
“Yes, yes. We certainly did!” The man on the other line faintly rustled about for a moment, as he searched for the ID. After a while, his voice once again sounded, “Here it is—his name is called Chu Ci; with the Ci character from mercy .”
instant hot pot : Self-heating hot pot, packaged like instant noodles in a plastic container and comes with a heat pack.
mercy : In chinese, mercy is 慈悲 (ci bei).