“Okay,” I told Hamster. “Your undercover mission is over. You can go back to the police station and get your informant bonus now.”
“Thank you, Song-ge!” Hamster replied with a smile. “But I can’t just disappear all of a sudden—that would rouse their suspicion! I’ll stay with them for a few more days in case I can get you more clues.”
“Okay, but be careful!” I cautioned him.
Judging by his looks, the red-faced Hamster had been having a great time being a member of the Black Panthers gang. He wasn’t collecting any criminal evidence after all, and there was no pressure or deadline.
After the meeting with Hamster, I called Dali and told him I had to perform an autopsy tonight and asked him to bring my tools over. I then went to the police station to tell Xiaotao about what Hamster told me. We stayed there for a while until 6 pm when Dali arrived. The three of us had dinner at the police station together. Once we finished our meal, Xiaotao told us to get in the car.
“What?” asked Dali in amazement. “What about the autopsy?”
“The body’s not here,” I told him. “It’s somewhere else.”
I didn’t want to tell him that we were going to a funeral home. If I did, the idiot would probably run away!
The funeral home was situated on the outskirts of the city. It was on a piece of land that used to be a mass grave, but in later years, all the dead bodies sent there were cremated. There were rumors of strange supernatural incidents that frequently happened there. Once, there was a cab driver who took a passenger there late at night. The passenger wanted to go to the funeral home and the driver refused at first, but because the passenger offered him a lot of money, the driver reluctantly agreed. When they reached the funeral home, the driver turned around only to find that the passenger had disappeared, leaving only a stack of ghost money.
On another occasion, a long-distance bus driver passed by the area and got off the bus nearby to take a piss by the roadside. As he was pissing, he was suddenly surrounded by a thick fog, and he saw a group of palace eunuchs, each holding a lantern as they escorted an old lady out of the funeral home. Their faces were devoid of any emotions or expressions. The driver was extremely frightened. He rushed back home and fell ill the next day. Because his illness kept getting worse, his family invited a Daoist priest to check on him. The priest informed the family that the driver had run into a dead spirit near the funeral home and he had to return there and pay respects in order to get better. They did as the priest advised and learned that an old lady died of a heart attack on the day that the driver stopped there, and that her descendants had burned paper servants that looked just like the eunuchs the driver saw that night.
As the surrounding looked more and more remote, Dali grew more and more restless and kept asking me, “Dude, where the hell are we going?”
Seeing that we were almost there, I replied, “A funeral home.”
Dali’s jaw dropped. Then he shouted, “Let me out of the car! Let me out!”
Xiaotao glared at him with contempt and jeered, “Why? Do you need to take a piss?”
“Come on, guys!” he complained. “I wouldn’t mind it if we go there during the day, but it’s almost midnight now! Why the hell would you go there at this hour? Don’t you know that it’s haunted?”
“We’ve got no choice, it has to be at night,” I explained. “We need to perform the autopsy secretly, and the only person who can do it is me!”
The autopsy must not leave any traces on the body that the Black Panthers gang members would notice later. If a conventional coroner did the autopsy, they would’ve operated the body with a knife, leaving a very obvious sign behind that would provoke the ire of the Black Panthers gang again, triggering them to launch another attack on the Blood Wolf gang.
I couldn’t help but notice how easy it was to send the two gangs clawing at each other’s throats. If you did something bad to one side without leaving your identity, the other side would automatically suspect the other gang.
“What if we run into a ghost inside?” asked Dali.
“Didn’t I tell you?” I replied. “Ghosts can’t hurt people. But if you’re really scared, you can go back now.”
Dali looked out the window and sighed. We were already out in the suburbs.
“Why did you have to say that now?” he asked. “It’s too late to go back. I might as well risk the night with you.”
The funeral home was very dark at night. The bleak moonlight illuminated the sign outside that read ‘Nanjiang Funeral Home.’ There was a solitary lamppost on the street outside. Xiaotao parked the car near it, and we walked to the main entrance of the funeral home together. The door was naturally locked, but it only took me a minute to pick it open with a wire that I brought with me.
When I pushed the door open, it creaked so loudly that Dali cowered behind me.
Xiaotao laughed at his reaction and jeered, “You’re even scared of the door?”
She turned on the flashlight on her mobile phone to look around, but I told her to dim the light slightly, because there could be someone patrolling the place at night. The last thing we wanted was to be seen especially since we had no authority to be here.
Our footsteps echoed throughout the whole building. We walked around until we found the entrance to the morgue. There was a glass pane on the door that allowed us to see into the room, and from there we saw a few beds with bodies on top covered by a white sheet. Some of the beds were empty.
Dali gulped and asked, “There are so many corpses in there, dude! What if one of them suddenly wakes up?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, idiot!” I scolded him.
I didn’t know which of the corpses belonged to the boss of the Black Panthers gang, so I had to go inside and check each one. Dali waited outside while Xiaotao and I entered the morgue. There were numerous dead bodies in here. Some had just died recently, some had obviously gone through stages of decay. I had read about a ‘dead bodies farm’ overseas where dead bodies were kept in the open for forensic scientists to observe the stages of decomposition that human bodies went through after death. We didn’t have anything like that in China, so these dead bodies in the funeral home were the closest thing I had to a ‘dead bodies farm’ and I had to admit, it got me really excited.
Although Xiaotao had seen many dead bodies before, she still looked uncomfortable when faced with so many corpses all at once. She suddenly grabbed my hand and clutched it tightly. Her hand was cold and sweaty.
“Your hand is so warm!” she told me. Her words warmed my heart.
The dead bodies in the morgue had died of different causes—some died in traffic accidents, some committed suicide by jumping off a tall building, etc. The conditions of these bodies were understandably terrible, but the morticians in the funeral home seemed to have given them a ‘beauty treatment’ and made them more presentable for the funeral.
“Why is his nose so strange?” I asked.
“They probably gave him a fake nose,” Xiaotao explained. “He probably faceplanted after jumping off a building and his nose got the brunt of the impact.”
“Can you guys just hurry up already?” Dali urged us from the outside of the room. “This place creeps me out! I don’t want to stand out here alone anymore!”
“Why don’t you come in then?” I suggested.
“No way, dude!” he replied. “It’s way creepier inside!”
“Song Yang!” Xiaotao cried suddenly. “There’s someone standing behind you!”
I turned around abruptly, but there was nothing at all. I looked at Xiaotao again and saw her doubled over laughing. She was probably trying to scare Dali shitless.
I told her that wasn’t funny and shouted Dali’s name a few times but he didn’t answer. I thought he’d fainted, but when I went out the door to check on him, I saw him squatting on the floor covering his head with his hands.
“I-Is it t-true, dude? Is there a ghost in there?”
“No,” I assured him. “Xiaotao was only teasing you.”
“Xiaotao-jiejie!” cried Dali. “Why would you do that? I almost died of fright!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” said Xiaotao. “I’ll buy you a drink when we go back, okay?”
I got up and saw a shadowy figure at the end of the corridor. The figure looked like a woman with long hair, wearing a large white dress that hung down to her feet.
The smile on my face faded immediately.
“Song Yang,” whispered Xiaotao. “Do you see what I see?”
I was afraid of scaring Dali, so I told her. “It’s nothing. Dali, I think it’s better for you to come with us into the morgue.”
“No way!” Dali insisted. “I’m not going in there!”
Xiaotao and I went into the morgue and we continued looking for the boss’s body. It was a long room, about five to six meters from end to end. As we were still looking through the dead bodies, we heard Dali’s voice outside.
“Oh, Xiaotao-jiejie!” he exclaimed. “Where’s Song Yang?”
I exchanged a look with Xiaotao. She was about to shout, but I stopped her short.
“You’ll scare him!” I warned her.
“Where are you going, Xiaotao-jiejie?” Dali continued to say. “Are you going to the restroom? Do you want me to go with you?”
The flashlight on Dali’s phone wasn’t on at that point, neither did he have the ability to see in the dark like I did, so he had no idea that the female figure he saw wasn’t Xiaotao.
I tapped on Xiaotao’s shoulder to tell her to hurry outside. Dali’s jaw dropped when he saw Xiaotao.
“B-But why are you here?” he stuttered. “W-Who was I talking to?”
“I was going to ask you myself!”
Dali panicked and hysterically screamed, “A ghost!”
After that, he pleaded with me, “Dude, I want to go home!”
“Calm down,” I comforted him. “Don’t let your imagination drive you crazy. Ghosts can’t hurt you—remember that. Now come with us.”
Dali kept on reciting ‘ghosts can’t hurt me’ over and over again as he followed us into the morgue. He kept turning back to look behind him. I asked him what he was looking at and he replied, “I’m afraid something’s gonna jump out from behind. It’s never a bad idea to be prepared!”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. The more timid people were, the wilder their imagination seemed to be!
At that moment, I saw a dead body on a bed behind Dali slowly sitting up. The white sheet covering the corpse slipped down to its waist, revealing a pale, deathly face. Both Xiaotao and I widened our eyes in shock, unable to even speak…Previous Chapter Next Chapter