Dali and I returned to Nanjiang City in a special armored vehicle. On the way there, I scrolled through the internet, trying to obtain information about recent events. After all, we spent this entire month and a half in a little hick town away from all the hubbub.
The most sensational news during this period was the public love affair between the idol Yi Xi and an actress. Tens of millions of female fans were hit hard and the comments on the internet were filled with grief. Yi Xi lost millions of fans in just one day!
Many girls even threatened to jump off buildings and slit their wrists, while others bombarded the actress’ Weibo with insults, sparking vicious arguments with her fans.
Several professionals in showbiz criticized Yi Xi for trampling all over his fans' hearts by making his relationship public. After all, an idol was a profession that made money by selling fantasies. However, there were also opposing comments arguing for the rights of these idols who were only human and had their own lives. Should they remain single throughout their lives just because they were regarded as dream lovers by millions of people?
I never kept up with celebrity gossip and neither was I acquainted with the names of all the new celebrities, so I didn’t really have an opinion regarding the matter.
When the armored vehicle pulled into the public security bureau, I noticed the building was surrounded by a sea of people, mostly girls who were holding up signs that read: "Yi Xi is innocent! Release Yi Xi! If Yi Xi is imprisoned, I’ll make him food! If Yi Xi is sentenced, I’ll kill myself in the name of love!" and other infatuated declarations that left my mouth agape.
At this moment, I received a call from Xiaotao. "Song Yang, I see the vehicle,” she said. “Don't come in through the main entrance. Go round the building and enter through the back.”
I looked out of the window and saw her tiny figure waving at us from a third-floor window. "What’s going on?" I asked.
"After we detained Yi Xi this morning, his fans blockaded the building and began causing trouble for us in the bureau!” she sighed. “If you bump into a reporter on your way in, don't say anything. Those guys are really crazy. They read into every single word you say!"
It took us a lot of trouble to get into the station where we personally experienced the might of the masses. A cacophony of rowdy fans shouting their slogans assaulted our ears, their discordant voices perhaps loud enough to shake off the roof tiles.
"These fans are terrifying..." gulped Dali.
"Sorry to have troubled you two,” said Xiaotao. “I know you’ve just completed your internship but as you can see, this is the situation we’re dealing with now. Any missteps and we’ll be condemned by society."
"Let's talk about the case first!" I sighed.
The incident occurred last night. Yi Xi had originally come to Nanjiang City as part of his concert tour, which lasted from 8 to 10 pm last night. When Yi Xi left the venue, he was surrounded by a large group of persistent reporters who hounded him about his love affair, their relentless questioning agitating Yi Xi. Soon, the scene spun out of control and his bodyguards quickly got to work, desperately trying to maintain order. Meanwhile, Yi Xi quietly left through the safety exit, though his whereabouts were unknown.
Anxious about his disappearance, the agency and the organizer mobilized all forces to find Yi Xi. At about 11 pm, two reporters heading back to their office coincidentally found Yi Xi driving on the same road with an unfamiliar man sitting in the front passenger seat.
The reporters pursued Yi Xi, forcing the latter to speed up, and as a result, the car went off the rails and dived into an artificial lake beside the park.
At that point, the reporters shouted for help, attracting a few passers-by who jumped down to save the star. Yi Xi was safe but the man in the front passenger seat drowned to death. When the police arrived, they managed to salvage the car but unexpectedly discovered two bodies instead. Besides the stranger in the front passenger seat, there was another charred, unrecognizable male body in the trunk.
In the face of police inquiry, Yi Xi showed great defiance and reluctance to cooperate. Due to obstruction from the onlookers on scene, he wasn’t immediately detained by the police at the time.
Xiaotao visited Yi Xi's hotel room with a search warrant this morning. Although the scene had been cleaned, traces of blood and a fire was discovered after a detailed investigation of the room. Preliminary results revealed that the time of death of the body was around noon yesterday. During this period of time, Yi Xi had no witness to prove his whereabouts.
Additionally, a housekeeping staff stated that he saw a man wearing a face mask and sunglasses enter Yi Xi's room but no sign of him leaving. He was initially suspected to be the deceased so Xiaotao detained Yi Xi back at the station.
After narrating the sequence of events, Xiaotao asked, "Do you want to see the body or the suspect first?"
"The living are usually dishonest,” I laughed. “I’d rather look at the dead that cannot lie!"
At the morgue, I was greeted by two bodies lying side by side on the autopsy table–a burnt corpse and a drowned body. I decided to examine the drowned man first. The deceased was about 40 years of age with pale skin, upturned eyes, showing mild livor mortis and tiny blood-streaked bubbles in his nose and mouth. When I pressed my hand on his abdomen, I immediately noticed a large amount of water in his stomach which fully conformed to the characteristics of drowning.
I speculated that the deceased was engaged in office work because his hands were free of calluses—his skin and hair were well maintained and he was smartly dressed.
I then stripped the dead man of his clothes and dug into his pocket, pulling out a wallet and a keychain. There wasn’t much money in the wallet but a lot of leaflets from a massage parlor.
"Damn, this uncle is a man of passions!" interjected Dali.
"Do you want them?” I chuckled. “Here you go!"
Dali looked at Xiaotao and retorted, "I’m not that shameless! In case you didn’t know, I actually care about my image!"
"I’m almost certain the deceased was single," I said, grabbing the dead man's hand and checking for signs of a wedding ring. Then I turned to Xiaotao and asked, "He doesn’t have his cell phone on him. Have you sent someone to salvage it?"
"There’s no way to dredge the entire lake,” she replied. “In fact, the water in the artificial lake has been stagnant for decades and never been cleaned. There’s a really thick layer of mud below so the only way would be to drain the lake entirely."
I listened to the dead man's chest with the Echolocation Rod. Except for a little hardening of the liver, there was nothing worth paying attention to. At first, I thought this would be enough examination of the body but I had a nagging suspicion I would miss something so I moved the Echolocation Rod to his abdomen and listened for a while.
The tapping of my fingers revealed something in his stomach. "Dali, get a bucket!" I instructed at once.
Dali quickly moved a metal bucket while I turned the body over, leaving the head hanging outside the slab. I rolled a towel and placed it under the body to elevate his chest and pressed on his stomach, alternating between light and heavy pressure.
Due to the large amount of water accumulated in a drowned person’s stomach, it was possible to push out the contents of the stomach without the aid of special tools.
After massaging the dead man’s abdomen for a while, I felt the stomach contents flowing backwards along the esophagus. I hastily opened the dead man's mouth and patted him on the back of the head, prompting the ejection of a stomachful of water.
"Dude, you’re just as skilled as a masseuse in the bathhouse," said Dali.
"Enough of your nonsense!” I chided. “Grab a flashlight to check if there’s anything in the stomach contents!"
Xiaotao turned on her flashlight and shined it on the liquid that had flowed out from the dead man’s stomach. We found some sediment in the water and undigested food consumed by the deceased. We quietly watched for a few minutes until the dead man could no longer “vomit” anything.
"That’s weird,” I puzzled, rubbing my chin. “I clearly heard something in his stomach."
"Is it stuck in his throat?" asked Xiaotao.
At her reminder, I squatted down and opened the dead man's mouth, checking inside. Dali turned away in disgust at the sight.
There was indeed a lump in his throat. I used the tweezers and carefully lifted it out. It turned out to be a piece of crumpled paper with the date vaguely visible–it was a printed document!Previous Chapter Next Chapter