Volume 1: Case 502 – The Intoxicated Frozen Corpse
The name’s Chu Ci, with the Ci character from mercy.
Although worn out after spending the entire night searching for the source of the new drug, when Qin Chuan heard that the investigators had locked onto the deceased’s identity, he instantly rushed back to the City Bureau without stopping to rest. He had just pushed open the door when he received such a shock that he was rooted to the spot.
“But… but he’s still alive?”
Ma Xiang facepalmed. “Our investigative work has been slipping…”
Crossing his arms, Yan Xie stood outside the interrogation room and coolly remarked, “How about you head in there first and kill him?”
The corner of Qin Chuan’s mouth visibly twitched, the words—Can’t afford to offend. Don’t ever offend him—were written all over his face.
A man who looked to be in his twenties, dressed in a light-gray shirt and large white coat was sitting in the interrogation room. His hands were placed on the table with fingers tightly interlocked with one another. His expression was incredibly watchful and vigilant as he probably still couldn’t react to—or figure out—why the police had barged in and suddenly dragged him into the Public Security Bureau the moment he stepped into the lab early this morning. Even the veins on the back of his hands were visibly bulging.
“You’re Chu Ci?”
“State your age and where you’re from.”
“What do you do?”
“Attending a graduate school in Beijing. Chemistry major.”
“Then why did you come to Jianning?”
“I’m about to graduate. My academic advisor pulled some strings and got me an intern position at an industrial chemical corporation here.”
The investigator recorded each statement one by one and asked again, “Which corporation? Which university in Beijing? What’s your academic advisor’s name?”
Contrary to everyone’s expectations, the man before them opened his mouth and told them everything; naming an exceptionally well-known private industrial chemical corporation, a university that everyone in the country had heard of, his dean and his academic advisor, along with everything else they needed to know. He answered each question in a clear, concise, and well-organised manner. Then, he continued to explain, “My student ID is in my bag. And my academic advisor is rather famous in the industry so you can go ahead and investigate all you want to check if it’s true. My apologies, I didn’t have time to ask, but what on earth did I do wrong? I’ve been camping out at my lab working on experiments dealing with sodium methoxide catalysts. I’m sure that you can retrieve the surveillance footage as proof…”
Lifting a hand to press his Bluetooth earpiece, Yan Xie quietly commanded, “Ask him if he knows anything about the bag.”
“At two p.m. on the 16th of April, you went to the financial centre to buy a bag. For what reason?”
In the interrogation room, Chu Ci visibly paused for a moment before answering, “I don’t know anything about a bag.”
“He’s lying,” Yan Xie muttered in a low whisper.
Qin Chuan didn’t understand what he meant by that. Yan Xie didn’t try to give an explanation either, he simply gave an order through the earpiece, “Show him the surveillance photo of the deceased buying the bag.”
The criminal investigator opened up a folder and pulled out an HD photo taken from the security cameras of the specialised store at the international financial centre. The deceased was facing directly towards the checkout counter. The sales assistant had already wrapped up a massive package and had placed it right beside him.
The way the investigator interrogated him was heavy with oppression, “…Then how do you explain this photo?”
When he caught sight of the photo, Chu Ci froze.
Even if it only lasted for a few seconds, his expression had transformed significantly. Yan Xie and Qin Chuan immediately looked at each other without saying a word.
“He’s my roommate.” Using two fingers, Chu Ci slid the photo on the desk back to the investigator and explained, “His name is Feng Yuguang. Why? What did he do now?”
“Their relationship must be goddamn horrible,” noted Yan Xie as he rubbed his chin.
Qin Chuan threw him a ‘Wow, you managed to deduce all that?’ look but Yan Xie didn’t respond. He told Ma Xiang, “Get the Department of Economy and Culture to call his school and internship company for verification.”
Ma Xiang acknowledged the order and left. After a moment, Qin Chuan elbowed him. “Stop making me guess. If you have something to say, just fart it out already.”
“You’re the one fucking farting. Even if I fart, it’s the kind of fragrance that smells amazing for a hundred miles, and enlightens people with perfect wisdom. Capiche?”
Qin Chuan replied, “…Fine. You’re the boss so you call the shots.”
Now that Yan Xie’s boots had been licked, he mimicked Chu Ci’s movement in returning the photo to the investigator. Using the fingernails of his middle and ring fingers to push the edge of the paper, he indicated for Qin Chuan to look. “See here? His actions were practically saying, ‘I don’t even wanna fucking deal with this guy, take this as far away from me as you can’. On top of that, as roommates who hadn’t met for a few days, his first reaction wasn’t to ask what happened to him. Instead, he asked what did he do. In his eyes, was this Feng Yuguang some scumbag who keeps causing trouble?”
“What kind of person is Feng Yuguang? What’s your relationship with him?” Inside the room, the interrogating officer asked back in response.
Taking a deep breath, Chu Ci slowly leaned back in his chair.
—Twenty-one years old. A research student who’s about to graduate from a famous university. The man was clearly a genius with a high IQ who had skipped multiple grades. He also belonged to a class of people that the police force hated to deal with the most.
“Our relationship is pretty normal.” Leaning against the chair, Chu Ci used this explanation as a preamble to his statement. “We’re two completely different people from different worlds.”
The investigator frowned. “Meaning?”
“Feng Yuguang was born in Beijing and his family is extremely wealthy. He has a wide circle of friends in school, but in his academic specialization, he’s not that…” Chu Ci fell silent for two seconds before vaguely continuing, “…gifted.”
Yan Xie spoke into his earphone, “Allow me to translate for a bit. He’s a slacker and I’m a top student. I want to treat him with the most brutal and inhumane, most ultimate form of contempt! Yay!”
“We’ve been roommates for more than a year, but we’re not very close. I spend the majority of my time in labs and the library and do home-tutoring four times a week so I rarely go back to the dorm. Especially now. I need to fight to be recommended for a doctorate and I’m overloaded with thesis assignments so I literally spend my nights in the lab.”
The investigator asked curiously, “So the two of you came to Jianning for an internship?”
“We’re assigned under the same academic advisor,” Chu Ci explained. “Even though they call it an internship, I’m actually just here to grab some crucial data for my recommendation thesis back in Beijing.”
“How about Feng Yuguang? Was it the same for him too?”
Chu Ci looked like it was rather hard for him to explain in a few words. “…He’s just here to buy some soy sauce .”
The officer leaned in. “Buy some soy sauce? Please explain what you mean by that. What does he normally do? He doesn’t study at all?”
“Not really,” Chu Ci said matter of factly. “But he’s always studying less than eight hours a day, it’s the same as not studying anything at all.”
The interrogation room sank into a momentary silence.
“…Fucking nerd,” mumbled Yan Xie.
The officer used up all the patience in his body in order not to roll his eyes right there. He flipped the statement records and asked again, “Besides studying, what kind of hobbies does he have? Does your roommate like to indulge in any particular lifestyles? Can you please tell us?”
Pondering over it for a while, Chu Ci seemed to find the questions rather difficult to answer.
“Just say whatever comes into your mind. The more detailed, the better.”
Chu Ci paused for a moment before he parted his lips to answer, “Feng Yuguang signed up for some extracurricular activities so he has a lot of friends. Occasionally, he goes out to party and returns home late. He also enjoys playing games from time to time. I don’t know what kind of games he was playing since I never bothered with it. Even if I did, I’d have no idea what they are. He doesn’t like going to the lab yet somehow he still passes all his classes. I have no idea how he manages to do that. He’s quite intimate with a few girls and they normally watch videos in his dorm. He’s always talking on the phone late at night and hardly ever hangs up. As for the rest, I’m not too sure myself.”
The officer instantly instructed, “Give us the names of the girls you mentioned.”
“I don’t know any of them,” Chu Ci replied grudgingly. “Look at me. Do you think I’m the type to pick up girls?”
The officer lifted his head and sized him up a few times. Even though he was checking him out from a guy’s point of view, Chu Ci was a man that could be said to be extremely good-looking, completely different from the stereotypical smart, bald-headed, glasses-wearing, and old-fashioned nerd.
But a nerd is still a nerd. What else could be said about someone who spends the entire day studying for eight hours and treats anyone who doesn’t as a failure?
The investigator tapped his pen on the table and asked a probing question to test the waters. “Your roommate. Does he take medication on a regular basis?”
Chu Ci replied, “I don’t know. What sort of medication?”
“Vitamins, cold medicines, anything will do. Have you seen him take any pills before?”
Outside the interrogation room, Yan Xie and Qin Chuan had their eyes fixed attentively on Chu Ci’s face, as though they wanted to catch any abnormalities from his simplest reply. But soon after, Chu Ci once again replied with confidence. “Never.”
Pressing onto his earphone, Yan Xie commanded, “Ask him when he last saw him.”
The investigator proceeded to ask, “When was the last time you met Feng Yuguang?”
“Two days ago, in the afternoon when I was heading to my dorm to fetch a book. Feng Yuguang asked me why I hadn’t slept in the dorm for the past two nights. I told him that we reached a crucial stage in one of the experiments, so I couldn’t leave the lab.”
“That’s all. I treat him normally, even when we went to Jianning together from Beijing. We have nothing to say to each other. No matter what he did, I have no interest in knowing what it was or being a part of it.”
Chu Ci leaned his body forward, pressing against the edge of the table. “If there’s nothing else, when am I free to go? My experiment on sodium methoxide catalysts is very important and I can’t just leave it.”
“Brother Yan!” The door burst open and Ma Xiang hastily barged in. “The Department of Economy and Culture made a call to verify it. They confirmed the identities of the deceased Feng Yuguang and his roommate Chu Ci!”
Giving a nod, Yan Xie only took in Ma Xiang’s quick-fire explanation as he continued on, “We’ve contacted the supervisor handling their internships, their dean, as well as their major academic advisor. Basically, we’ve verified that the majority of what he said is true. But then what about that bag? If these two really had an ordinary relationship, then how do we explain the fact that the deceased used cash and his roommate’s name to buy a luxury bag. So I contacted their class instructor—and guess what I found?”
Yan Xie raised his brow. “A situation?”
With a card up his sleeves, Ma Xiang speedily flipped his notebook and brightened instantly. “A big situation.”
One minute later, the door to the interrogation room was pushed open. Chu Ci looked up.
Spending a five-digit amount of RMB hadn’t been in vain. Yan Xie’s white top still appeared rather stylish and neat despite looking all wrinkled after being worn all night. His simple movements of dragging the chair to sit, one hand stuffed in his pocket, brought out a fine scene that was of a totally different calibre than the entire Criminal Investigation Detachment team. It was as though a crime scene investigation from a US drama had suddenly appeared in the local drama series, “Police Stories”.
The investigator promptly greeted him, “Vice-Captain Yan.”
Nodding, Yan Xie didn’t say a word. He received the statement and flipped through a few pages. Nobody knew what he was looking at. They only saw him rubbing his chin with full interest. Suddenly, without raising his head, he asked, “You’re not close with your roommate.”
Chu Ci replied, “Yes.”
“You both keep to yourselves?”
“You can say that.”
Yan Xie asked, “Then why did you keep requesting to change rooms from the start of the year until April?”
Chu Ci paused.
“On April 10th, you made your last application. After the instructor refused, citing that he couldn’t switch you to a new room, you were given an access card for the lab, He said that if you seriously didn’t feel like going back to the dorm, you were permitted to stay at the lab for the night. On April 12th, the other research students needed to work on a hydrothermal reaction experiment throughout the night. In order to sleep in the lab, you even helped them burn a reactor.”
Chu Ci answered, “The electricity doesn’t get cut off in the lab at night. There’s air conditioning too…”
“On April 15th, both you and Feng Yuguang went to Jianning. On the afternoon of the 16th, Feng Yuguang went to the shopping mall at the international financial centre and used your name to buy a luxury bag worth ¥18,000.”
The entire interrogation room was engulfed in a dead silence. Chu Ci did not say a single word.
Yan Xie propped his elbow on the edge of the table and flatly commented. “If I’m using another guy’s name to buy stuff, then there’s only one possibility. And it’s that I want to give the item to him as a gift but I’m worried that he won’t like it—this way I can still exchange it at the shop later.”
“—But, in the end, you didn’t accept the bag either way.” Breaking off for a moment, Yan Xie once again frowned. “I’m sure you have your issues with Feng Yuguang, and you didn’t like this person.”
Chu Ci rubbed the middle of his forehead with his knuckles. When he raised his hand, the two investigators noticed that he had a band-aid wrapped around his little finger and ring finger.
“That’s right.” A few seconds later, he finally put down his hand and confessed to Yan Xie while looking him in the eye. “We have some issues between us.”
Yan Xie coldly asked in reply, “Only some?”
Chu Ci stared at Yan Xie with his arms crossed before his chest. Usually, when an ordinary person was interrogated by the police, they would tend to look guilty or panicky. But the self-restraint of this talented young student was far greater than anyone else. At least on the surface, nobody could tell whether he was upset or not. He only clearly and distinctly repeated his words again. “Only some.”
Yan Xie’s eyes flickered, his expression unreadable.
“—Fine.” A long time later, Yan Xie leaned back in his chair, shrugging his shoulders indifferently. “Then tell us what kind of issues they were. And why did he want to give you a bag worth ¥18,000? With all due respect, in my entire life, I’ve only given branded goods to my first love. But even those branded goods turned out to be damned useless. She was only nice for like ten minutes and nothing good came out of it. It’s just like using a meat bun to hit a dog, once you give it away, there’s no getting it back—”
“He’s too noisy.”
“My roommate.” The tone of Chu Ci’s voice was very flat. “Five nights a week, he’ll watch videos until two in the morning and then watch his dramas and play games until five. Throughout the entire night, the lights are always on. And there were a couple of nights where he’d go out and only come back around three or four in the morning. The moment he comes back, he’ll switch on the lights to wash up. No matter how deeply I sleep, I’d always wake up because of him. I can’t even remember the last time I actually slept until the morning.”
“I’m a poor student, the ‘if I don’t get the scholarship every year, it’s the same as committing a heinous crime’ type. Usually, I can still force myself to keep it in, but when it’s close to exam time, I really can’t put up with it. Not only that, when I do my experiments in the morning, it’s hard for me to concentrate. You know how dangerous some chemical experiments are? There were a few times I almost got into an accident—”
Yan Xie suddenly interrupted him, “You had a nervous breakdown?”
Chu Ci did not reply.
“Just now, you made two mentions about the lights being switched on. And that’s because you’re very sensitive to light when you’re sleeping. Am I right?”
“…” Chu Ci eventually sighed and tiredly said, “I didn’t have a neurosis with my ex-roommate.”
Outside the interrogation room, Qin Chuan softly cursed ‘Fuck!’ under his breath. “This brat had a clear motive to commit the crime.”
Yan Xie asked, “Since your relationship with him is already beyond repair, why didn’t he move out? On the contrary, he bought you a gift—my bad, I can only assume he was trying to convince you to stay. He wanted you to move back to the dorm after you returned to Beijing. Correct?”
Chu Ci replied, “About that, I really don’t know why he did it. But I guess he couldn’t work on his graduate thesis.”
Lifting his head, Yan Xie looked down his nose at Chu Ci who was sitting across the interrogation table in the shadows. As he studied his face, the eyes of the former were laced with undisguised scrutiny and a chilly suspicion.
“Sir, “ Chu Ci appeared rather helpless. “Everyone has problems with their roommates, but that’s not the reason you’re keeping me here and it’s definitely not the reason you’ve been interrogating me all day. With all due respect, can I ask you a question? Did something happen to Feng Yuguang? If so, then why don’t you go ahead and retrieve the surveillance records proving I was in the lab these past two days?”
Ma Xiang’s phone rang from outside the interrogation room. He made a ‘sorry’ gesture at Qin Chuan before hurrying out of the room to take the call.
Ten seconds later, he once again barged in. Turning around, Qin Chuan sent him a questioning look, asking him what happened.
“…Brother Qin, Brother Yan.” Ma Xiang swallowed his saliva, his expression looking grave. “Something happened… at the internship company.”
Letting go of his earphone, Yan Xie raised his head to look at Chu Ci and sincerely said, “I’m very sorry.”
Chu Ci sent him a confused look.
“The company you’re interning at told us that the surveillance camera in the lab hasn’t been working recently, and they only repaired it yesterday. Simply put, there haven’t been any surveillance records since the day you returned to the dorm to meet Feng Yuguang, ”
Chu Ci was at a loss for words.
“And you might not know this, but that was also your last conversation with Feng Yuguang. A few hours later, he put on the backpack you rejected and died at the backdoor of a KTV bar in Fuyang District,”—Yan Xie placed the statement on the table—“On that very same day.”
The calm expression Chu Ci had maintained on his face instantly contorted.
“…What did you say?”
Yan Xie’s voice didn’t sound cold nor harsh. But his words reverberated inside the interrogation room, overflowing with a powerful warning.
“Student, you’d better be honest and tell us exactly what Feng Yuguang said to you that day. The victim died because of chemical poisoning. Not only do you have a motive to kill him, you’re also capable of making poisons. You also don’t have an alibi. If you’re still trying to withhold something from us, then you’re the only suspect we have in this case.”
Crossing his arms together, Yan Xie leaned back and flatly continued, “You should know perfectly well what that means.”
The harsh dead silence blanketed the entire room. As though frozen stiff in the shadows, Chu Ci didn’t even blink his eyes.
“…how on earth…”
Nobody answered. All eyes were glued to him.
An interminable amount of time passed before Chu Ci finally spoke up under the fiery gazes, his voice was very soft and hoarse, “When I went back to take my things that afternoon…”
“Feng Yuguang was reading a book in his dorm at the time. When he saw me, he suddenly insisted that we make a bet.”
Buy some soy sauce : It means to be a bystander.