I thought that no one knew about the altercation I had with Young Master Wang at the school gate that day, but I truly underestimated the school’s gossip mill. Within two days, Dali came running. "Song Yang, I heard you got into a fight with a rich guy at the school gates and you even smashed his car! Did you really do that?"
"Who the hell told you that?” I asked, shocked. “We exchanged a few words, that’s all. I certainly didn’t get into a fight, nor did I smash his car!"
"It's all over campus,” he said. “There are even several versions. There’s another one that says you slapped him and walked away, leaving the rich guy begging for your forgiveness as he chased after you."
I suddenly felt the urge to kill myself. Didn’t these gossipmongers use their brains at all?
I solemnly told Dali the truth of the matter, to which he excitedly exclaimed, "Fuck! He gave you a blank cheque and asked you to leave Xiaotao-jiejie?! How drama-like!"
“He’s also a 90’s kid. I’m guessing he learned it from TV."
Young Master Wang was merely showing off. Cheques had a withdrawal limit, otherwise I could simply fill in $10 billion and he would go bankrupt instantly.
"This won’t do,” said Dali. “I have to go spread the truth and clear your name!"
With that, he ran out as swift as the wind and I couldn’t stop him in time.
March saw a calm, peaceful Nanjiang City. Although there were a few minor cases during this period, I wasn’t required to step in. Many students at school were already busy looking for jobs. Even Dali often went missing, saying he was doing market research to lay down the foundation for his future business.
Whenever I asked him what business he was interested in, he would shush me with a mysterious grin. I thought that if Dali really were to start a business, I would invest a million yuan as starting capital.
One day in mid-March, I received a call from Xiaotao. "Is there a case?" I asked.
"It's not so much a case, rather, we’ve run into a little trouble,” she explained. “It's an explosion case and the corpse is in pieces. Can you drop by?"
"I'll be right there!" I replied.
Xiaotao informed me where the scene of the explosion was. Since Dali wasn’t around today, I brought my tools and rushed over on my own. The scene of the explosion was an old bungalow so the neighbors weren’t affected by it, which was perhaps the silver lining. All that remained of the house that had razed to the ground was burnt rubble. Officers walked back and forth over the debris, searching for the remains of the body.
Bingxin was squatting on the ground, anxiously trying to restore the corpse with the charred fragments that lay on the tarpaulin before her.
Standing beside her was Xiaotao who soon noticed my arrival. "Song Yang, there you are," she said.
"How thorough the explosion was!" I spat my tongue.
"You’ve got that right,” she let out a dry laugh. “Last night, residents nearby heard a loud noise that shook their house and furniture. They ran over and found a huge fire. We’ve been busy since early morning yet we’ve only managed to find a quarter of the corpse..."
She then briefly explained what they knew. The deceased was a middle-aged divorced machinery factory worker who lived alone. The police found an update on his WeChat last night that said, “I’m sick and tired of this world. Goodbye!" From the residue left at the scene, they confirmed it was a gas explosion but Xiaotao discovered that the blast was mostly concentrated on the main load-bearing structures of the building. There was no need for such an exaggerated move if the man’s purpose was to commit suicide so everyone unanimously agreed that the suicide was fake.
While we were speaking, the officers found more corpse fragments. "Song Yang-gege,” said Bingxin. “Can you use your method from before to help me restore the corpse?"
I kneeled down to check, grabbed a tweezer from my toolbox and pulled at the epidermis of the corpse fragment. When I examined it with Cave Vision, I immediately discovered something off so I leaned in and sniffed.
Human bodies, much like pigs, cattle, and sheep, were made up of protein and fat. People were nauseated by burnt human bodies because they smelled similar to roasted meat.
"Song Yang-gege! Song Yang-gege, did you hear what I said?"
Bingxin’s repeated calls pulled me out of contemplation. "We can't use the same method,” I clarified. “Last time, we were dealing with a pile of bones. This time, the corpse was burned. Throwing the pieces into the water would destroy them."
Bingxin stared at me in astonishment. "Wasn’t the deceased killed by the explosion? Why do you say that the corpse was burned?!"
"Come over here and take a look,” I pointed. “There’s a gel-like layer under the carbonized epidermis tissue of the corpse. This is liquefied fat. The blood vessels under the skin are rosy and have expanded, which is the result of the body being heated over a small fire. The momentary burst of heat during an explosion has no way of producing such an effect."
I pulled apart the epidermis with my tweezers and showed it to her. Bingxin slowly leaned in until our skin was almost touching. We were both so focused on the corpse we didn’t notice how close we were. Xiaotao suddenly coughed loudly and interrupted, "Song Yang, do you mean that the body was destroyed to wipe out any evidence?"
I looked around and nodded, "It’s been done very thoroughly too, perhaps a little overdone!"
"What do you mean by that?" Xiaotao expressed puzzlement.
"The corpse was originally burned which already is the best way to destroy evidence, yet it was still blown apart in the end. Isn’t this overkill? Did the murderer want to conceal the fact that the body was burned after death? Or maybe the burning of the corpse itself would reveal clues to the crime!" I speculated.
I suddenly noticed a chicken claw-like object on the tarpaulin–it was the hand of the deceased. I examined it in my palm, repeatedly looking for clues.
"The victim’s hand wasn’t tightened into a fist, which means he wasn’t burned alive," observed Bingxin.
"After killing the victim, the murderer burned the body over a small fire and then blew it up. Is the murderer some sort of sick pervert?" I wondered.
Bingxin clapped her hands excitedly. "Ah, I get it now!” she squealed. “The murderer must be a man-eating maniac belonging to an evil cult. He roasted the victim’s body until the skin turned crisp and the flesh tender, but only ate the internal organs so he would gain the victim’s strength. Then, he stuffed a bomb into the victim’s stomach and blew the body to pieces."
"Miss Sun, there you go again with your wild imagination!" admonished Xiaotao as she clapped her forehead.
At the word "internal organs,” I was immediately struck with an idea. I grabbed some of the corpse fragments and pulled apart the carbonized skin. The signs that indicated the corpse had been burned were atypical. At first, I thought it had been slowly burned over a small fire but my gut told me there was something else. I suddenly understood what it was.
“What are you looking for?” asked Xiaotao as she watched me search among the corpse fragments.
"Internal organs!" I said.
Even after going through all the fragments, I hadn’t found any internal organs. Could it have been as Bingxin speculated?
"Please do a carboxyhemoglobin test on the corpse," I instructed Bingxin.
Bingxin agreed and immediately took a few corpse fragments into the police vehicle to do the testing. Xiaotao asked me if restoring the corpse was possible. Glancing at the officers still busy searching for corpse fragments, I shook my head and sighed, "It’ll be difficult and I don’t think it’s important."
"Why do you say that?" she asked.
"What the murderer was trying to cover up with the explosion wasn’t the victim’s identity, but the cause of death,” I explained. “Let's wait for Bingxin's results. Meanwhile, I’ll try piecing together as many corpse fragments as I can!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter