Judging by the footprints in the grass, the superior was a mere 1.6 meters tall with a weak and small stature. I pictured a well-dressed man who fussed over every minor detail.
The man who moved the body was also the bomb maker. He was most likely the careless, temperamental kind who lacked self-control.
My analysis impressed Xiaotao. “Could they be part of a criminal gang?" she asked.
"I don't think so,” I said, shaking my head. “Perhaps they are allies, each with their own role to play–one responsible for the murder and torture while the other in charge of destroying the corpse. Their common interests are what connect them."
Xiaotao scoffed, "Common interests? What benefit could they possibly get from torturing and killing people?!"
"Although this is the second murder, I’m not reconciled to admit anything while the details of the case remain unclear,” I said. “Let's take a look at the corpse first!"
When we returned to the crime scene, we saw Dali leaning against a tree throwing up. It turned out that this idiot had slipped in unnoticed and peeked into the car only to be overwhelmed by the sight that awaited him.
"Hands off the tree! There’s evidence on it!" I yelled.
Dali had vomited so hard his eyes were brimming with tears. He wiped his mouth with a paper towel and cried, "What evidence?"
There were a few teeth and some broken bones embedded in the tree trunk. As soon as I pointed that out, Dali ran away screaming.
"What a coward!" laughed Xiaotao.
Teeth were the hardest bones in the human body. The explosives must have been placed in the middle of the victim’s body for his teeth to have been sent flying and riveted to the tree by the impact. The perpetrator might have placed the victim’s arms around the bomb or stuffed it into the victim’s belly.
"Where was the pinhole camera found?" I asked Xiaotao.
Xiaotao gestured, “Near a stone over there.”
One of her father’s rules was not to step into a crime scene at night so Bingxin wasn’t with us.
"I'll take a look inside the car!" I said.
"Are you going in?” asked Xiaotao in wide-eyed astonishment. “Forget it, I'll ask the other coroners to help clean up the scene tomorrow."
"It’ll be dawn soon,” I said. “When the sun comes out, the ultraviolet rays will inevitably destroy some of the evidence. Moreover, the car is seriously deformed from the explosion so there are only two ways to get the corpse out of the car–squeeze into the car or take apart the car. The former is definitely the better option of the two and I’m the best candidate here for the job so I'll go in and do an autopsy now!"
"Alright then, be careful!" reminded Xiaotao as she waved me away.
Xiaotao asked the officers to find me a protective suit which I put on after swallowing a Mind Clearing Pill. The officer who delivered the suit also handed me a wooden board and a large plastic bag to "scrape" the corpse off the seats.
Before entering the car, I checked the fuel tank. Generally speaking, a secondary explosion would surely occur in the fuel tank with such a violent explosion. However, the car’s fuel tank was intact. Was the fuel tank empty at the time?
When I carefully crammed myself into the car, the sight that greeted me almost stifled my breath! Flesh, blood and internal organs coated the interior of the car as far as the eye could see. There were skull fragments embedded in the roof and a large lung lobe hanging from the steering wheel. As soon as my feet landed, I stepped on a mass of slimy intestines. The seats were completely burnt, exposing a bunch of bloody springs so it was impossible for me to sit. I had to bend my waist at an uncomfortable angle. Outside, Xiaotao asked if I needed her to shine a light but I refused.
The protective suit was equipped with a gas mask but it was ineffective against the offensive smell that permeated the air. The nasty stench of human internal organs combined with the smell of burnt flesh and rubber penetrated the gas mask. I figured if I hadn’t worn the gas mask, I would have passed out on the spot.
The victim’s viscera were mostly concentrated in the front seat. There was a foot under the seat and when I pushed the seat down, I found two charred arms in the back seat. The unusual location of where the arms had landed suggested that the victim’s hands were tied behind the victim and the bomb was probably tied around the waist.
Judging from the shape of the palm and the fingers, the victim was a woman. There was an obvious ligature mark on her ring finger, most likely left behind from wearing a ring all year round!
My current concern was to determine whether the victim was alive or dead at the time of the explosion. A coroner usually did so by looking for evidence of vital reactions in the corpse. If a person were injured while alive, the body would produce a response to the trauma that theoretically would not appear when the traumatic agent exerted action after death. One example of a vital reaction was an increase in platelet count. However, explosions were an exception. An explosion would rip the body apart instantly so there wouldn’t be a response even if the victim had been alive at the time. The murderer must have taken this into account when choosing this method of destroying the body.
I slowly felt along the severed limb and found the flesh soft–a sign of subcutaneous congestion–indicating that the victim had been dead for more than 10 hours.
I moved on to look for the other body parts and before I knew it, dawn had arrived.
"Bingxin is here! Do you need her help?" shouted Xiaotao.
"Get her to spread a sheet of tarpaulin outside. Let’s try to piece together the corpse."
It was impossible to restore the corpse but I wanted to check which organs were missing and determine the cause of death.
I started moving the corpse fragments I had found outside, some of which had turned into minced flesh that could only be scraped off with the wooden board. But I could still see which part they belonged to and I believed Bingxin could do the same.
The entire process took about two hours, and when I finally got out of the car, my back ached. The ground was covered with a sheet of tarpaulin with body parts scattered all over it. In truth, it was a pile of plastic bags and couldn’t be considered a corpse.
"Well done, Song Yang-gege,” said Bingxin. “You’ve found all the body parts."
After I opened and examined each plastic bag, I exclaimed, "We’re missing something!"
"I don’t think we can recover all the broken bones but the internal organs are all here," replied Bingxin.
I shook my head. "Are you sure about that? If you take a closer look, you’ll find that we’re missing an important organ!"
Even after another thorough examination of the body parts, Bingxin was still clueless.
"The tongue!" I prompted.
A human tongue was about four to seven centimeters long, but that was only the anterior part. The whole tongue itself was huge which was discernible when a person committed suicide by hanging from a rope tied around their Adam’s apple. Because the whole tongue would be pushed out by the pressure, it could even reach the chest.
How could such a large part have disappeared? Since the tongue extended into the throat, the victim’s tongue was unlikely to have been blown into smithereens even if the head had exploded from the impact. I was certain there was more to this abnormality than meets the eye.
Xiaotao immediately called for a sweep of the entire area, and after searching for about 15 minutes, someone shouted, "I found it!"
An officer walked back with a black plastic bag containing the tongue. When I examined it, I noticed that apart from being burnt, the shape of the tongue wasn’t damaged due to the organ’s toughness. When I asked where he found it, the officer pointed to the front and said it was about ten meters away in the woods.
It was clearly a huge exaggeration to say that the blast had propelled the tongue more than 10 meters away.
I carefully examined the surface of the tongue and found parallel slits of several centimeters long and a puncture wound containing some old blood at the apex of the tongue. The wound could not have been left by the explosion. A light bulb suddenly went off in my head and I quickly handed the tongue to Bingxin so I could examine the victim’s hands and feet.
When I turned around again, everyone had crowded around me, waiting for my conclusion. I confidently announced, "I know how the victim died!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter