After a moment’s contemplation, Officer Ouyang replied, "No, we might have missed it."
Director-General Cheng was the first to realize the implication of my words. "Song Yang, do you mean to say that Officer Niu’s head was severed by a fishing line?"
I nodded. Most people simply couldn't imagine how strong a fishing line was. In the past, I had purchased more than a dozen fishing lines precisely for tension tests and found that the strongest ones could lift an adult man without breaking.
Apart from fishing lines, I had also experimented with a variety of items in order to accumulate practical knowledge for solving crimes. My odd collection included more than a dozen buttons, cloth, daggers, syringes and so on. I appropriated part of my bonuses for this purpose.
"This is very similar to the Headless Rider case from a few years ago,” remarked Xiaotao. “But it was ruled a homicide and the victim was on a motorcycle whereas Officer Niu was in a car. How exactly did it happen?"
I pointed to the photos that clearly captured glass fragments on the ground about five meters behind the car which had aroused my suspicions. According to the angle and inertia of the impact, broken glass would only fly forwards, not backwards. How did the broken glass get there?
Additionally, Officer Niu had a bruise on his right elbow suggesting that he bumped into something before his death. I was inclined to believe it was the rear windshield. In line with the shape of the car’s body, I surmised he was standing beside the rear of the car when he struck the windscreen with his elbow, which also explained how he got dust on his clothes.
But why break the rear windshield?
The answer was to tie up the fishing line. In the photos, I noticed a utility pole behind the car. My guess was that Officer Niu tied a fishing line to the utility pole, got into the car and tied the other end of the line to his neck. Then, stepping on the accelerator and brake at the same time, he waited for the right momentum to release the brake. The huge force from the car accelerating instantly sliced off his head!
I myself verified if this was engineered by a third party.
For example, he might have already been dead at the time so the murderer faked a suicide in this manner. However, the evidence on the body substantiated that the man was alive at the time of decapitation.
The fact that Officer Niu was properly dressed in a pristine uniform decorated with all his medals and his police cap intimated his state of mind at the time. Combined with that fact, an otherwise teetotaler had consumed a lot of alcohol pointed to one thing–he was determined to commit suicide!
Upon hearing my conclusion, Director-General Cheng and Officer Ouyang heaved a heavy sigh.
"Xiao Niu, why are you so hard on yourself..." cried Officer Ouyang with tears in his eyes.
"Thank you, Song Yang,” Director-General Cheng seemed to sigh with relief. “Looks like there’s no need to file a case."
"You're welcome,” I said. “I hope you don’t mind if I ask. Was Officer Niu troubled over something recently?"
"In fact, he sent me a text right before he committed suicide,” mused Officer Ouyang. “All he said was: he's back, it's your turn to repay the debt!"
"He’s back?" I furrowed my brows. "Can you think of anyone you might have indirectly or directly harmed?"
"That’s a difficult question to answer,” admitted Officer Ouyang. “As police officers, we’ve both caught quite a few criminals, and in the process, indirectly destroyed families or reduced them to destitution and ruin.”
I personally agreed with this statement. Seeing Deng Chao in prison had reminded me that I indirectly destroyed many lives.
"I hope my question doesn’t offend you,” I added. “Have either of you committed anything unconscionable?"
“I swear I’ve never done anything to dishonor the uniform I wear,” Officer Ouyang calmly replied. “I can also vouch for Officer Niu’s integrity. After all, I know the man inside out."
Director-General Cheng chimed in, "Officer Niu was also my classmate and friend. He’s an upright and selfless man."
Judging from their microexpressions, they were telling the truth.
In the end, Officer Ouyang and Director-General Cheng decided to personally delve into the questionable aspects of the case. Although it had been quite some time since they last involved themselves in a case, the tragic death of their good friend demanded their participation.
When we left the morgue, Xiaotao turned to me and asked, "By the way, does a beheading hurt a lot?"
"Not at all,” I replied. “In fact, decapitation is the least painful of all ways to die."
“You speak as if you’ve tried it!" laughed Xiaotao.
I explained that in the 18th century, a French doctor conducted a shocking experiment where he stood beside the guillotine, observing the process every day. As soon as a prisoner was beheaded, he would rush over and pick the head up by the hair, slapping it a few times to see if the prisoner was still conscious after decapitation. His experiment revealed that the prisoners showed no anger or frustration despite turning red and swollen from being slapped, indicating that the prisoners lost consciousness soon after being beheaded.
"Sun Tiger will be back soon," remarked Xiaotao.
"His trip has taken long enough,” I chuckled. “Shall we throw him a welcoming reception?"
"Perfect! You can meet up with Bingxin as well. After all, it’s been more than half a month since you last saw her!"
Right then, we were interrupted by a noisy din. As it turned out, a group of men was arrested in the wee hours of the morning in a huge massage parlor crackdown. Xiaotao's department wasn’t in charge of pornography and prostitution crimes, but they were placed in the same building and bumped into each other.
With a quiver of delightful Schadenfreude, I enjoyed seeing these men get caught and shamefully put on their clothes under the watchful eye of police officers. Of course, these men showed a mix of different reactions upon being arrested–some arrogant, some regretful, while others were unfazed. I joked with Xiaotao, wondering out loud when I would get the chance to have a go at these guys.
One of the men squatting on the ground, characterized by his pockmarked face suddenly looked up and smiled, "Officer, you’ve got the wrong guy. I went in to look for someone."
"Look for someone to undress you, eh?" retorted an officer.
"It’s not like they’ll let you into the massage parlor if you’re dressed,” argued Pockmark. “How would I know it was that sort of massage parlor? I swear I’m here on business."
"Enough of your excuses!” shouted the officer. “Just pay the fine later and get your boss or family member to pick you up!"
"Have we met this pockmarked guy somewhere?" I asked.
Xiaotao seemed to recognize him as well, but the exact details of where we had come across the man eluded her. "He looks so vulgar. Is he someone we previously arrested?" she scratched her head.
As soon as he caught sight of us, Pockmark waved enthusiastically. "Hey, bro! What a coincidence!” he exclaimed. “We meet again!"
At the sound of his thick Wuhan accent, I frowned, "Who are you? I’m not your bro."
"Ah, how easily the noble forget!” sighed Pockmark. “I’m the antique dealer you met last time. I’m telling you, this is a complete misunderstanding! Can you clear things up with this officer here?"
"Song Yang,” interrupted Xiaotao. “There’s a newly opened hot pot restaurant nearby. I heard the food’s really good!"
"Let's go then! I'm starving."
As we headed out the station, Pockmark shouted from behind, "Bro, come on! Don't be like this! Don’t you think meeting here is fate?!"
At this point, I couldn’t be bothered to entertain him. But just as we were about to walk out the door, he yelled, "Miss Officer, misfortune and death awaits you!"
His words hit me like a bat to the head. Had he claimed I was the recipient of a great calamity, I wouldn’t bat an eye but Xiaotao’s job constantly placed her in harm’s way. Her safety was a matter of great concern and perturbation.
Despite the fact that I was well aware most people were cheated by these fortune tellers due to their own insecurities and fears, I couldn’t resist turning back. "What do you mean by that?” I coldly demanded. “Test my patience and I’ll kill you."
"If you let me go, I'll tell you," Pockmark sneered.
It was difficult to read his microexpressions for his pockmarks and laugh lines made it impossible to discern if he was telling the truth or lying. That alone suggested he was an experienced man who had long been mixed up with society.
“Song Yang, why listen to his nonsense?” Xiaotao walked over and tugged my sleeve. “Can you believe a word this charlatan says?"
I declared decisively, "Let's get him out on bail first."Previous Chapter Next Chapter