After reading the files, I thought the similarities between our torture murder case and Qi Sheng's case were indeed specious. Qi Sheng's case hadn’t drawn much sensation. Would anyone pay homage to him or imitate him?
When I asked Wang Yuanchao what he thought, he quietly took out a piece of paper from the storage box and handed it to me. It was a mechanical design blueprint. Perplexed, I asked him what it was.
"This is the seed drill Qi Sheng designed when he was younger. It even won an award," said Wang Yuanchao as he exhaled a mouthful of smoke.
I studied Applied Electronics so I knew a little about mechanical engineering. Unlike what most laymen thought, mechanical engineers didn’t build large machines but studied the structural design of machinery. The design in this blueprint showed ingenuity.
I immediately understood what Wang Yuanchao meant. "Do you think he’s not the murderer?"
Wang Yuanchao nodded. Back then, when the police investigated the crime, he didn’t belong to the criminal investigation department so he didn’t have the right to say anything. However, his instincts told him that although the suspect confessed to everything and all the evidence pointed to him, he wasn’t the murderer.
Later on, Wang Yuanchao had investigated the case himself. And the more he investigated, the more suspicions he had. Would a perfectionist who studied mechanical engineering all his life create such crude killing devices?
This was clearly an insult to a professor of mechanical engineering!
The last time I experienced this feeling, I was looking at the fake Kong Hui. Although he confessed to everything, I perceived there something was wrong.
"Then why did he confess?” I asked. “Was it to hide from the loan sharks?"
Wang Yuanchao shook his head. He wasn’t sure either.
Mount Leopard Prison had a long history which could be traced back to the Qing Dynasty. During the Republic of China, it had a terrifying reputation among ordinary citizens and was one of the locations where certain progressive figures had been imprisoned. After several reconstructions, it was now a modern prison.
We parked the car outside and went through several checkpoints. At this moment, the inmates were allowed out of their cells for exercise. As we passed through the compound separated by barbed wire, many inmates threw themselves on the fence and wolf-whistled at Xiaotao. Others placed their hands over their crotch and made vulgar gestures. Xiaotao wrinkled her brow at their behavior.
"Back off or points will be deducted!" threatened a prison guard.
As the inmates obediently walked away, Dali asked me in a low voice, "What is he talking about?"
I explained to him that inmates usually worked in factories to accumulate work points and scores were linked to performance. The points they gathered could be used to reduce their sentence or get released on bail. However, any small mistake could cause a huge deduction in points so inmates would usually behave if threatened with a point deduction.
However, one of the inmates refused to leave. The man clung to the wire fence and glared coldly at me. "You look good, Song Yang!"
When I heard my name, I paused. At first, I didn't recognize who it was but upon closer inspection, I realized it was Deng Chao. Hair shaved to a buzzcut, he wore a loose uniform and the bruises on his face were especially eye-catching on his pale skin. He was probably beaten by the other inmates.
We were once from the same school but I never expected to meet him like this. "How are you?" I asked.
Deng Chao smiled sardonically, "You can put away your false sympathy. It’s all thanks to you I’ve fallen to this point. Why don’t we go for another round huh?" Deng Chao, churning with rage, had completely lost the demeanor of a student.
"Shut up! You brought this upon yourself. There’s no point in blaming others," Xiaotao condemned.
At this moment, the prison guards blew their whistles to call the inmates to assemble but Deng Chao turned a deaf ear. When the prison guard shouted his number, Deng Chao looked straight at me, enunciating each word, "I’ve lost everything, but what I have is time! I’ll wait for the day I finally leave this place. Then, all of you will..."
“Bang, bang, bang,” he vocalized, his hand mimicking a gun as he pointed at me, Xiaotao and Dali. Then, two prison guards forcefully dragged him away, pinned him to the ground and jabbed him with an electric baton. Deng Chao convulsed from the shock, but his eyes remained ruthlessly fixed on me.
Dali sighed, "What a pity to see a former schoolmate turn into this."
"There’s no need for sympathy! These assholes deserve to slowly rot to death in this place!" snapped Xiaotao.
"Deng Chao wasn’t sentenced to death?" I asked.
"What’s the difference between life imprisonment and a death penalty?” scoffed Xiaotao. “Anyway, you’ll never see him again. Stop staring at the fence. He's not the only one you sent in here. Be careful, someone might throw a knife at you."
"In a sense, I have ruined many lives,” I sighed.
"But you’ve protected the lives of kind and innocent people,” Xiaotao comforted, giving me a soothing pat on the shoulder. “Don’t feel guilty over these scum."
We were taken to the visitation room by the prison guards. Xiaotao agreed when I suggested that Wang Yuanchao and I meet him while she and Dali waited outside.
In the visitation room, the prison guards soon brought out an energetic, silver-haired old man. If he was wearing a Taoist robe instead of a prison uniform, he might radiate the graceful bearing I imagine a wise, immortal deity would have.
Wang Yuanchao offered him a cigarette but the old man didn't take it. He cupped his fist and asked, "What can I do for the two of you?"
"Well aren’t you full of vim and vigor!" I said.
The old man laughed, "I usually practise Tai Chi. In a place like this where one doesn’t eat or sleep well, I’ll collapse if I don’t take better care."
"We’re here to ask you about your case!" Wang Yuanchao cut to the chase.
"I think you’ve made this trip for nothing,” replied the old man. “Haven’t I already said that no one else was involved in the case? The court has already sentenced me to life imprisonment. Why continue investigating?"
"Did you personally design those three killing devices ten years ago?" I looked him in the eye and asked.
I made sure my question was specific in order to expose any flaws in his reply. But to my surprise, the old man calmly admitted, "Yes, haven’t I already confessed to this?"
"Just because you confessed doesn’t mean that you’re the murderer!" I refused to budge.
The old man burst out laughing. "Aren’t you a funny one! Who would be so stupid to take the blame for a murder they haven’t committed?"
I was shocked that he didn’t flinch at all.
I took out the two crime scene restoration drawings and handed them over. As soon as the old man saw the sketch, a little excitement swept across that impassive face.
"There’s someone imitating your method of torture and murder,” I started. “These are the two devices he designed. What do you think?"
"Not bad, looks like the youth of today have surpassed this old man,” he said, stroking his beard. “The designs are much better than mine were back then. Did you see it with your own eyes?"
"This was conceived from the restoration of the corpse,” I explained. “The corpses were both destroyed by bombs."
The old man looked at me with admiration in his eyes. "Looks like you’re a talented young fellow, but I think your idea is a bit lacking. The mechanism designed by that person may be more complicated."
Grasping the focus of his remark, I stared into his eyes with Cave Vision and asked, "Who is that person?"
Once again, the old man answered without so much as a change in his expression. "Why are you so impatient? How would I know who that person is? I just think of him as a like-minded friend. What a pity I don’t have the chance to meet him! Do you have a pencil? I'll correct your drawing for you!"
After a brief exchange with Wang Yuanchao, he got up to ask a prison guard for a pencil.
The old man leaned over the body and started drawing. A few corrections later, he handed me the paper and grinned, "If I were him, I would design it this way."
I stared in wide-eyed astonishment at the picture before me. In just a few minutes, he managed to draw such detailed blueprints. The old man was definitely an expert.
In the first picture, the victim was still walking on fiery charcoal in a suit of copper armor but he had added gears and springs on the armor so the entire armor could move more flexibly with each motion.
The second picture, on the other hand, was completely reconstructed. Instead of pulling the door with the victim’s tongue, the iron hook was now attached to an axle mechanism that allowed the victim to turn off the gas valve with her tongue. This was indeed a more precise design. From the standpoint of the murderer, this was a safer plan. Even if the victim succeeded, there was no way she could escape.Previous Chapter Next Chapter