Chapter 32: If You Lose, Eat the Whole Ashtray!

“Did you hear that, everyone?” Xiaozhou announced to the room loudly. “The great detective Song just said that if he can’t find any traces of evidence on the dead body, he will eat the whole ashtray! The ashtray is made of glass, by the way.”

The police officers who were busy working in the crime scene all turned their attention to Xiaozhou and started to murmur among themselves.

“That was bold, dude,” said Dali, getting nervous for me. “What if you really lose?”

“And if I lose the bet,” continued Xiaozhou, “then I’ll eat the entire contents of the ashtray!”

The crowd roared. But it was obvious that most of them were supporting Xiaozhou, not least because he was the leader of their team.

I was confident with my grasp of autopsy techniques, but I still hated being provoked and challenged like this all the time. Just wait, I thought, you’re in for a good show soon!

“Good!” I said. “I’ll take a look at the dead body for now. I’ll tell you when I’m going to start the inspection.”

“Okay,” said Xiaozhou. “But don’t you try to count your own fingerprints!”

“Don’t worry, I’m not so stupid or so shameless that I would do anything just to win…”

Xiaozhou didn’t miss the mockery in my reply.

“Fine,” he said with an undercurrent of anger in his voice, “I’m looking forward to the show you’re about to put on.”

After he left, Huang Xiaotao sighed and said, “Song Yang, it’s all my fault.”

“Why? What’s going on?” I asked.

Huang Xiaotao said Xiaozhou was a police officer who had studied abroad, and he was a little proud and arrogant because of that. He had just examined the dead body and reported the results to Huang Xiaotao. After reading the report, without thinking, she said, “Oh, don’t worry, we’ll just wait for Song Yang to examine the dead body too. He’ll figure something out.”

She didn’t mean to belittle Xiaozhou’s capabilities with that comment, but judging from his behavior, it was obvious that he took Huang Xiaotao’s words to heart.

Xiaozhou pestered her about the methods I used to examine dead bodies and where I learned them from, so Huang Xiaotao replied that I came from a family of Traditional Coroners. Xiaozhou felt insulted that he was compared to someone like me, and he set his mind up to show me what a real professional was like the moment he met me.

“It’s all because I was a bad team leader,” said Huang Xiaotao, putting her hands up in the air. “I should’ve read the room and thought before I said anything.”

“It’s not your fault,” I said. “I think it has more to do with his personality.”

“Xiaotao-jiejie,” said Dali, “who has the higher rank between you and this guy?”

“Our ranks are equal,” she said. “But I climbed up to this rank from the very bottom, while he obtained the rank of Superintendent the first day he entered the police force, which wasn’t that long ago.”

“But why? That’s unfair!” cried Dali.

“Because his credentials were much better than mine,” said Huang Xiaotao self-deprecatingly. “He graduated from a renowned American university with a specialized degree while I was just a police academy graduate. How could I even compare?”

“Geez,” said Dali, “I never knew you need an academic degree to become a police officer. But he said he was Henry C. Lee’s disciple, didn’t he? I have to admit that’s pretty impressive.”

“You heard wrong, Dali,” I said, “he merely said that he was in a class taught by Henry C. Lee. If he really was his disciple, we probably wouldn’t hear the end of it!”

I myself had read the books and journal papers that Henry C. Lee wrote. In fact, I’d pored over all of the books about forensic science in the library during my college years. They complemented the knowledge that I learned from Collected Cases of Injustices Rectified, and thus I accumulated quite a bit of knowledge over the years.

As the saying went, knowing oneself and knowing the enemy guaranteed a hundred victories in a hundred battles!

“Song Yang,” said Huang Xiaotao, “I just heard Xiaozhou tell another member of the forensics team that there was something strange about the dead body. Perhaps the murderer did something to remove fingerprints. That’s why he was so confident in betting against you. If you’re not sure about this, I can sneak you out of here.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “Unless if the murderer really was a ghost, some clues must have been left behind!”

I then pulled out a black wooden rod that was about as long as the palm of my hand out of my backpack. Dali asked me what it was for.

“It’s called an echolocation rod. It’s made of cypress wood, and it’s used for Organ Echolocation. This type of wood is dense, so it carries sound very well. I forgot to bring it with me last time. That’s why you saw me putting my ear directly on the dead body.”

I then double-checked that I had everything ready, then placed one end of the echolocation rod onto the victim’s chest, abdomen, and back and listened from the other end while I tapped at the victim’s skin. I discovered that the time of death was about seven days ago. I was glad that I didn’t forget the rod this time because without it, I’d be placing my ears directly on a seven-day-old corpse.

I paused my thoughts. Seven days?

That would coincide with common folk belief that the soul would return to the family on the seventh day after death. Didn’t the couple who discover the body say that the bed rocked, which led them to look under the bed in the first place? Could it be due to this reason?

I had no authority on this subject, of course. A Traditional Coroner’s job was to collect evidence and catch the murderer. As for spirits and ghosts and the like — well those things weren’t my specialty.

Back to the dead body. The victim lost a huge volume of blood, which significantly decreased the moisture content of the body. Plus, the dead body had been in an almost sealed compartment where the exposure was minimal. All that contributed to the fact that it had barely decomposed, despite being a seven-day-old corpse.

In truth, the dead body wasn’t drained of all its blood, because I could hear residual blood clots in her chest cavity through Organ Echolocation. When the human body lost thirty percent of its total blood volume, the body would reach a state of shock. Once it lost about fifty percent of blood, the circulatory system would shut down immediately and the person would experience paralysis, before dying shortly.

Judging by various symptoms on the dead body, the total blood loss was at least seventy percent — more than enough blood to fill a couple of large Coke bottles! When I thought of that, my eyes subconsciously turned to the two huge puncture wounds on the victim’s neck.

Did she really die because a vampire had sucked her blood?

I asked for a pair of scissors from Dali, then I cut up her bra and panties. Dali’s jaw dropped.

“Dude!” he said. “Can’t you do that later? Xiaotao-jiejie is still here!”

“Shut up!” I spat.

Huang Xiaotao herself was only observing with her arms folded, completely unperturbed. She was probably used to this kind of thing, and she showed no reaction at all. The idiot Dali was the only one making a big fuss over it.

It was absurd to me to still be concerned about a dead body’s gender. In my eyes, they were merely inanimate objects.

“How do you plan to examine the body, Song Yang?” Huang Xiaotao asked. “Are you going to use vinegar steam like last time?”

I shook my head. I did think of it, but I felt that the method wouldn’t yield any results. As for Autopsy Umbrella, well, it was past midnight by now, so it was out of the question.

Autopsy methods should always be used and adapted according to the time and conditions of the immediate environment — so I decided to use a new approach this time!

I asked Dali to get me my bag. From the bag, I took a roll of good Xuan paper and a bottle of Camellia oil. Dali was curious and asked me what they were for.

“To check for handprints, of course,” I said.

I didn’t use the word fingerprints, because I had a suspicion that it might be impossible to detect fingerprints on this body after all.

Xiaozhou heard us and immediately marched across the room towards us.

“Yo! Great Detective Song is beginning his autopsy! This will be a good spectacle!”

“Keep your eyes peeled then!” I said.

I asked Dali to turn the body over. Judging from the puncture wounds, it was evident that the murderer held the victim face down as he sucked her blood. This meant that if there were any handprints to be found, it would be on her back.

Besides, Xuan paper and Camellia oil were both ridiculously expensive, so there was no way I was going to test for handprints on the whole body. A four-square-inch Xuan paper cost 20 yuan per piece, while Camellia oil cost 100 yuan per gram, making this Oil Paper Test the most expensive method of autopsy passed down by Song Ci!

I placed a sheet of Xuan paper on the victim’s back, then very carefully dropped the oil onto it, making sure that the paper completely absorbed it. The oil-soaked paper gradually became transparent, and now the skin below it was visible. I then placed a second piece of Xuan paper onto the first, repeating the same process.

“Hey! You shouldn’t use oil on the dead body! Now we’ll have to clean it u—” Xiaozhou stopped mid-sentence, his widened eyes were fixed on the dead body.

“Look!” cried Huang Xiaotao. “Something’s appeared!”

“Why can’t I see anything?” asked Dali, squinting his eyes. The idiot was chronically short-sighted but hated wearing glasses, so he needed a lot of effort to see anything that was not blatantly in front of his eyes every single time.

Outlines of handprints gradually appeared on the oil-soaked Xuan paper, but they were still indistinct, and to the average person they were only slightly darker than the color of the surrounding skin. But to my eyes, they were as clear as day!

In fact, the positions of the handprints were exactly where I expected them to be.

I then layered a third piece of Xuan paper on the first two, then gradually soaked it with more Camellia oil. Then, I repeated the process with the fourth layer of Xuan paper, and then the fifth…

At one point, the oil wouldn’t turn the paper transparent anymore, and the color of the top layer of Xuan paper remained the same except in a few spots. Gradually, a distinct shape emerged — the ‘dry’ patch of the paper that didn’t turn transparent formed the outline of two clear handprints!

“Holy shit, that’s awesome!” cried Dali.

“How did you do that, Song Yang?” asked Huang Xiaotao.

“Th-that’s… That’s impossible!” exclaimed Xiaozhou. “I got it! You’re a fraud! It must be some kind of trick! You must’ve done something to the paper!”

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