Chapter 232: Branding of Shame

Volume 16: The Palm and Back of Hand are all Flesh

On April 3rd,[1] Lin Dongxue had been restless the whole way to work during the car ride.

Chen Shi had said last night that he would come right back, but he didn't come back home until 8:00. The food he cooked had already turned cold. After returning, he just frowned and didn’t say anything.

When Lin Dongxue tried to comfort him, he said, “Dongxue, you need to move out tomorrow. Don't live here anymore!”

Lin Dongxue felt choked up and cried with a pillow over her face the entire night. She even thought that Chen Shi didn’t feel the same way. Yesterday, they both held hands in the movie theater as well. Why did his attitude suddenly change 180 degrees? She really had no idea.

The most frustrating thing about going to work was encountering some personal problems and having to look strong and laugh when you got to the unit.

Lin Dongxue and the oncoming colleagues smiled and greeted each other. She sat on the desk and looked at the several cases on-hand waiting to be handled. Her eyes were fixed on the words on the file, but she couldn't actually see a single word. Her mind had already wandered elsewhere.

A memo note she put on her table a few days ago said to go and find Captain Peng to get a DNA identification report, so she went to the forensics department.

Captain Peng seemed to be doing an autopsy, so Lin Dongxue flipped through the documents by herself. She happened to see a case file from a few years ago with Song Lang’s name on it.

She often heard people mentioning Song Lang, but she didn’t know who this person was. Out of curiosity, she sat down and opened the file.

The case occurred three[2] years ago and there were several serial killings in Long’an City that occured over a two month period. There were two victims at each crime scene. Their relationships were that of couples, divorced lovers, father and son, etc. The murderer also left a distinctive criminal signature.

A victim photo with a burned neck was taken. It was an equilateral triangle with some strange patterns in the middle. It was like they were burned with a brandishing iron or something similar like that.

After a series of investigations, the police roughly locked onto a suspect named Zhou Xiao, but they never caught him.

At this time, the internal variables of the task force appeared. There was evidence that Song Lang was involved in the third murder. His fingerprints had appeared at the crime scene. Coincidentally, the victim of this murder was someone that Song Lang hadn’t arrested due to a lack of evidence. In other cases, people began to suspect that Song Lang took the opportunity to kill people by acting as a copycat killer.

The task force temporarily suspended Song Lang, but he continued to investigate it alone. One night, several gunshots alarmed the police. When the police arrived, they found Song Lang's partner Qin Luoxi and his boss Li Mu in a pool of blood. The cause of death was suspected to be gunshot wounds.

Later, Song Lang's fingerprints, footprints, and bloody fingerprints were found at the scene. The police determined that Song Lang was the primary suspect of the murders and began to hunt him down. Song Lang was never found.

This case file was only an objective narrative, but it made Lin Dongxue shiver upon reading it. She was too devoted and didn’t even notice when Peng Sijue stood behind her.

“Dongxue!”

Lin Dongxue was startled and greeted, “Captain Peng.”

Peng Sijue glanced at the case file in her hand. “You’re looking at that? That’s an old case.”

“I have a question to ask. Did you also participate in this case? Did Song Lang really kill people?”

Peng Sijue sat down tiredly, took out a pack of cigarettes from the drawer, held it in his hand, and put it back again. “Would you suddenly shoot me and Chen Shi?”

“No! Definitely not!”

“Human behavior is coherent. Song Lang and I have known each other for many years. I know what type of man he is. The deceased Qin Luoxi was his fiancée and Li Mu was his professor at the police academy that later became his master.”

“He couldn’t have done it...”

“But others don't think so!”

“Why?”

“Song Lang was too famous. In the police legend of the year, he solved a case every 2.5 days on average. The public security bureaus and the branches in other foreign cities often came to him for help. He rejected a lot of cases. After all, he was just a single person and didn’t have that much energy. In the long run, many people thought that Song Lang was arrogant, even though these people had never met Song Lang. When the crime happened, the bureau even invited a psychologist to analyze it. Psychologists considered Song Lang as having a serious anti-social personality and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They believed that when he failed at taking revenge by copying the serial killer, he began to retaliate against those in his life. This was complete nonsense and he would not do such a thing. If we took a million steps back and said that Song Lang wanted to kill someone, with his IQ, he wouldn’t have left so much evidence against him.”

“But the evidence here is very sufficient. If there was someone who was trying to frame him, wouldn’t there be a slip up?”

“There must be holes to it. There must be holes, but they haven't been found yet!”

“Captain Peng, why did you suddenly look at this old case?”

“Come here. I have something to show you.”

Lin Dongxue put on some sanitized clothes and went to see the corpse that just had their post-mortem with Peng Sijue. A male body was lying on the iron bed, which had been dissected and re-stitched back up. There was a long suture from the navel to the neck, causing Lin Dongxue to shiver.

Peng Sijue turned the deceased's neck over and Lin Dongxue saw that there were the exact same burn marks as what she saw on the case file. She said in shock, “That serial killer from back then…”

“Yes, the police haven't made this detail public. No one can imitate these methods. This case was done by him!”

“When was the body found?”

“Last night.”

“Captain Peng, what exactly is this?”

“It’s a branding of shame.”

“Branding of shame?”

“As early as the eighteenth century, mentally-ill patients were treated as possessors of evil spirits and were imprisoned with leprosy patients and murderers. They were treated very rudely. When French psychiatrist Philippe Pinel visited a mental hospital, he found a detained patient, with dense amounts of brandings imprinted below the neck. There wasn’t a piece of good skin on his body. It turned out that every time the patient acted up, the nurse forced him to calm down with a red brandishing iron. Pinel was greatly shocked and spent a lifetime establishing the modern psychiatry we understand today to allow patients to be treated and cared for. The iron used to abuse patients was called the branding of shame in future generations, meaning the shame in the history of psychiatry. It was put on display in the museum of Pinel and later taken out for auction before falling into the hands of an unknown buyer.”

“Zhou Xiao intentionally imitated this. What is the idea he’s trying to convey? Does he think everyone else is crazy?”

“It's not an imitation. I personally tested the rust components of the wound. He used the real brand of shame. The unknown buyer I just mentioned was one of Zhou Xiao’s victims. Since then, he has taken this as his criminal signature.”

Lin Dongxue was speechless. Looking at the dead body, she thought that this lunatic was back. However without Song Lang to deal with him, how many more people would have to suffer?

Peng Sijue said suddenly, “By the way, you can show the file to Chen Shi. I want to hear what he thinks. He is smart and an outsider, so maybe he has some new ideas.”

“Captain Peng, the files are not allowed to be taken out.”

“Then read it again and verbally dictate it back to him.”

“Okay then... Does Song Lang have a good relationship with you?”

“Yes!”

“If, and I mean if, Song Lang really killed someone, what would you do?”

“Arrest him personally and then resign.”


1. Editor’s note: Based off of my understanding of the timeline, volume 14 ends on March 22. Volume 15 takes 2 weeks minimum and ends with Chen Shi going out. April 3rd would be too soon.

2. Editor’s note: Most likely four years ago in their timeline.

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