Xiaotao felt that there was a risk of exposure if we proceeded rashly. If Third Young Master was indeed a member of this secret website, he must be very cautious. At present, the best way forward was to get Lao Yao’s assistance.
I called Lao Yao, put him on speaker and explained the situation. To which he replied, "Okay, leave it to me!"
Obtaining this person's registration information through the forum's database was a piece of cake for Lao Yao. But a few minutes later, the entire forum suddenly disappeared. "Aren’t you going a little too far?” I blurted, shocked by his move. “Why remove the entire forum?"
"It wasn’t me. As soon as I hacked into it, the database crashed. I was up against an expert!" Lao Yao sounded unhurried.
"Can you recover the information?" I asked.
A wry smile spread to his lips. "I’ll give you an example. If you enter a house to steal something and the other party blows up the house, can you get anything?"
"Well think of something else then!" I urged.
All of a sudden, Lao Yao roared, "What the fuck?!"
Everyone froze in puzzlement. I assumed he meant me and after I repeated his name a few times, Lao Yao finally replied, "That asshole just crashed my system by attacking me with more than a hundred zombies at the same time!"
In my mind, Lao Yao was the expert of experts, yet someone managed to crash his system!
Lao Yao’s competitive spirit was aroused. "I’ve rewired my system. Damn it, I must return the insult!" He gritted his teeth, refusing to contemplate the idea of failure.
Hence, Lao Yao began a long-range battle with the other hacker. Although the situation was broadcast live on the phone, I couldn’t really understand what was going on either. The other party must have infected Lao Yao’s system with a virus or forced a large amount of data to paralyze his system. It seemed the two were equal in strength.
Like watching the Gods go to battle, us laymen listened to the rapid-fire clatter of his keyboard. Xiaotao raised her doubts, "Why would there be an expert hacker on such a small forum?"
"Could this be the work of the people behind that secret website?” I speculated. “Being on the internet means they bear the risk of exposure, so perhaps they got a skilled hacker to act as their protector. When the other party senses a potential leak of information, he’ll nip it in the bud."
Xiaotao shouted into the phone, "Lao Yao, don’t just focus on fighting him! Make sure you get a good grip on this guy!"
But no reply came from Lao Yao, only the powerful tapping of his fingers on the keyboard. After a while, he took a deep breath and announced, "I totally wrecked that guy! But I’ve also burned my CPU and hard disk. At least I got my revenge!"
"I don't care about your situation,” Xiaotao rapped her knuckles on the table. “Tell me what you’ve found."
"Xiaotao-jiejie,” Lao Yao drawled. “I use proxy servers so my IP addresses are all foreign. Not revealing one's IP address is the basic requirement of a hacker. Of course, I wouldn’t reveal that!"
"What's the point of telling me this?!" chided Xiaotao.
"Talk to you later! I have to get a new computer. Bye!" he cooed. And with that, he hung up.
Xiaotao sighed, "The trail has gone cold again. This website is too well protected."
"I'll go back and discuss with Lao Yao to see if we can find some other way,” I suggested. “That hacker can't be online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, can he?"
"I think it’s possible,” Dali chimed in. “They might be a team of hackers."
There was some truth in Dali’s words so it didn’t seem like we could continue investigating the case from this angle. Right then, Bingxin ran into the room and yelled, "Come with me! I’ve found something!"
It turned out that Bingxin had discovered a large concentration of carbon monoxide, the main component of gas, in the victim’s corpse. Since the amount was enough to poison an adult, she concluded that the victim died of poisoning.
"Why did the murderer use carbon monoxide?” I mused. “Its efficacy isn’t that high. As long as there’s even a little bit of air circulation, the victim would survive."
Bingxin clapped her hands in realization. "I think I know why. The crime scene was a secret room!"
Grabbing a piece of paper, Bingxin started drawing a picture of the victim’s death. In her drawing, the victim’s hands were tied behind her back with an iron hook pierced through her tongue. There were chains on the hook that were attached to the window and the victim had to pull the windows open in order to survive.
I picked up her pen and turned the window into a door, an extremely heavy door. This seemed more realistic.
After staring at the paper for a long time, Xiaotao finally muttered, "This looks like a scene out of the horror movie, ‘Saw.’ The murderer forced the victim to kill herself under the false pretense of giving her a chance to survive!"
"The first victim was forced to walk on fire in copper armor, and the second one had to open a heavy door with her tongue,” I analyzed. “It does resemble the movie but our murderer isn’t as fair as the villain in the movie because it’s almost impossible for the victims to survive. A person can’t survive third-degree burns that cover more than 70% of their skin. And there are a lot of blood vessels on the tongue. Even if the second victim’s tongue hadn’t been ripped off, she would have bled to death. The set up was unfair to begin with!"
"At this point, all that I can say is I hope there isn’t a third victim!" sighed Xiaotao, her head lowered.
Xiaotao asked Dali and me to go back first. If there was any progress in the case, she would inform me. I agreed since there was nothing else I could do here. Meanwhile, Xiaotao was going to look for other clues. Just as we left the building, Dali and I saw Wang Yuanchao approaching.
"Wang Yuanchao, where have you been these past two days?" asked Xiaotao.
Covered in dust, Wang Yuanchao had huge dark circles under his eyes that indicated how busy he must have been. "I went to look for someone! Xiaotao, are you familiar with case no. 429 that took place in 2006?" asked Wang Yuanchao.
Xiaotao laughed, "2006? I was still in high school."
"In fact, this case is very similar to the one from ten years ago!" he said, without so much as a change in his expression.
To our surprise, Wang Yuanchao explained that ten years ago there was another torture murder case in Nanjiang City that claimed three victims. At the time, the case had been solved and the convicted murderer was still serving his sentence at Mount Leopard Prison.
Wang Yuanchao had gone to his old branch office and looked through the case files from that year. Finding similarities and also some differences between the two cases, he went to visit the convicted murderer but the old man remained tight-lipped.
"Take us to see him now!" I urged.
"That’s exactly why I came back," nodded Wang Yuanchao.
When we got into Wang Yuanchao's car, I noticed the case files were there so I took the opportunity to study them.
The crime solving techniques they employed ten years ago were rather poor. The murderer himself had created three types of torture instruments. The first one was a spiked metal collar that continuously shrank around the victim’s neck. The second instrument was a heavy object with blades on the bottom slowly lowered by a mechanism. The victim was forced to push the oncoming object to prevent it from falling onto his body. And the third was a kind of balancing device, on which the victim was forced to stand still. Even the slightest movement triggered an injection of sulfuric acid into the victim’s body.
The design of the three self-made instruments of torture weren’t as well-conceived as the current torture murder case and contained certain flaws. For example, the third device had an electrical leakage during the operation which eventually electrocuted the victim to death.
The convicted murderer was Qi Sheng, an old mechanical engineering professor. Once, a student of his had been seriously injured during practical class so his parents sued the school who immediately found the best defense lawyer to shirk all responsibility. Qi Sheng was faced with two choices–pay the huge compensation or go to jail. He ended up borrowing from loan sharks and selling his house, and even lost his wife in the process.
The mental strain eventually pushed Qi Sheng to breaking point and the idea of retaliating against society formed in his head! He believed that the law was only a tool to safeguard the privileged and the world required extrajudicial governance to maintain justice. So he used his skills to build torture devices, killing the dean, a teacher who abused children, and an unscrupulous liquor dealer who made and sold fake alcohol that blinded many people.
Aside from the obvious motive, Qi Sheng's plans lacked sophistication and he left traces throughout the process of purchasing materials. Before a mountain of hard evidence, he finally confessed to his crimes and landed himself in jail.Previous Chapter Next Chapter