Chapter 33: Corpse Positioning

I pulled out a stack of Xuan paper from my bag and shoved them into Xiaozhou’s hand.

“Go ahead, check it yourself!” I said. “Then tell me what kind of trick I used!”

Xiaozhou’s expression turned ugly and he stared fixedly at me.

“Go get my toolbox now!” he barked.

He then took out some gadgets and tools and chemicals from his toolbox and began to scrutinize the Xuan paper. I couldn’t be bothered with him so I went back to the dead body and examined the two handprints. Huang Xiaotao ordered a police officer to take pictures of the handprints as evidence.

Each of the two handprints was very clear and they were both on the victim’s shoulder blades, which meant that the murderer pressed her down with immense force while sucking her blood.

I compared the handprints with my own palm, and found that they were slightly bigger than mine. Judging by the shape and size, the murderer was probably an adult male aged between twenty to thirty.

There was one strange thing about the handprints.

“Why aren’t there any fingerprints on these handprints?” asked Huang Xiaotao. So she noticed it too.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“The murderer probably damaged his fingerprints somehow, or maybe he wore a glove.”

I shook my head and pointed at a few spots on the handprints, saying, “Look at these. These are clear lines of joints, which meant that the murderer didn’t wear gloves. And if they did damage their fingerprints, there would’ve been messy folds and lines where the fingerprints should be, but instead, they’re all smooth and featureless.”

“Then what could be the reason for it?” wondered Huang Xiaotao. She looked adorable as she leaned her head to the side as she was thinking hard.

At that moment, Xiaozhou was done examining my Xuan paper. His face looked even worse than before, almost as purple as an eggplant.

Naturally, there was no problem with my Xuan paper, but the bastard refused to acknowledge it.

“It makes no sense that this ordinary piece of paper is more effective than my high-tech American equipment!”

“You’re as stubborn as a mule!” I sneered. “Just because you lost to me doesn’t necessarily mean that my traditional method is better than your high-tech equipment. You just lost to your own conceit. You never bothered to learn these ordinary methods that our ancestors left for us, yet you’re so eager to applaud and defend these foreign gadgets.”

“Here you go,” said Dali. “Piping hot ashes and cigarette butts, fresh from the oven!” He took the ashtray and handed it to Xiaozhou, but Xiaozhou refused to take it.

I took the ashtray and held it in front of him.

“Come on,” I said, “Honor your words. If you eat them, I’ll tell you why you didn’t detect any handprints earlier.”

This time everyone in the room swarmed around us with excitement. Most of them were on Xiaozhou’s forensics team.

“Go away!” he barked. “You’re not allowed to watch me!”

Then he grabbed the ashtray from my hand and dumped the whole contents into his mouth. Most of it missed his mouth and just fell to the ground, though, but I couldn’t be bothered to point it out.

His mouth was covered with ashes, and he forced himself to chew the cigarette butts in his mouth with a torturous expression on his face. I had to bite my lips very hard to stop myself from laughing because I didn’t want to humiliate him any more than that.

Dali had no such restraint, though. He openly laughed and tapped at my shoulder to say, “Dude, look at his face! Do you think he likes the taste of cigarette butts?”

Even Huang Xiaotao couldn’t control her laughter, but she at least tried to do it discreetly and covered her mouth with a hand.

You didn’t need to try them to know that the cigarette butts tasted horrible. Xiaozhou strained himself and forced them down his throat, then wiped his mouth with his sleeve.

“Now tell me why.”

“I have read Western books on forensic science before, and the methods you use to detect fingerprints is based on the principle that human sweat glands produce a certain amount of oil, so anytime our fingers come into contact with the surface of an object, there will be fingerprints left on that surface. So, you use aluminum powder and ultraviolet light to detect these fingerprints. Unfortunately, the murderer in this case is out of the ordinary…”

“How?” Xiaozhou asked impatiently.

“He has no sweat glands,” I answered. “Or even if he does, their secretory function is defective.”

“But all humans have sweat glands!” said Xiaozhou, astounded. Everyone else was stunned as well, and they began to debate about it among themselves.

“You know, I have to thank you,” I said.

“Thank me?”

“Huang Xiaotao told me that you graduated from an American university,” I said, “so I trust that you would’ve used every method possible to detect fingerprints. That saved me a lot of time, because then I knew I had to use the oil paper test.”

“Wait!” said Xiaozhou. “But if he has no sweat glands, then where did these handprints come from?”

“They’re yang energy prints,” I explained. “At the moment of death, the electrical currents in the body will instantaneously escape from the pores of the skin. And if the skin was blocked by an object, an impression of the surface of the object will be left on the skin. So, it didn’t matter if the murderer had any sweat glands or not. You’ve heard that the weight of our body decreases by 21 grams after death, have you? Some people claim that it’s the weight of our souls, but in fact, it’s the weight of the electric current in our body that dissipates the moment we die.”

Xiaozhou’s eyes widened. He let out a long sigh.

“You are truly extraordinary,” he said. “I’ve underestimated our ancestors’ knowledge — I’m definitely wrong for doing that.”

It appeared that this guy was much better than Dr. Qin. At least he was humble enough to admit his fault. My impression of him started to improve.

“Don’t worry too much about it,” I said. “You’ve been studying science for so many years. It’s only natural that you’d distrust me when you heard that I’m a Traditional Coroner. I hope that we can work together as a team from now on.”

“I’ll keep my mind open and ask for your advice from now on,” he said. “And I’ll try not to be so proud.” He hesitated for a while, then stretched out a hand to me. And so we shook each other’s hands.

“Let’s get back to work!” I said to the police officers who were watching us.

“What more do we have to examine?” Dali asked.

This was clearly not a straightforward case at all. I had to let go of how expensive Xuan paper and Camellia oil were and just examine the whole body with the oil paper test. With Dali’s help, we managed to cover the victim’s wrist, waist, thigh, and ankle.

Oil paper test was a time-consuming method, and it took us almost an hour to complete it. There were signs that point towards the victim being bound by some kind of cloth on her wrists and ankles, and we found another pair of handprints on her waist.

As we were hard at work, Xiaozhou stood beside the dead body and observed our every movement with fascination — he didn’t seem to doubt my capabilities anymore!

“Give us a hand!” I said.

“Okay,” he said. “How can I help?”

“You and Dali slowly lift the victim’s arm up,” I ordered.

As they lifted the victim’s arms, I placed the echolocation rod on her shoulder blade and listened to the sound, then repeated it on the other shoulder. If the victim had been fixed in a position before she died, her joints would secrete a layer of lubricant; when she died, this lubricant would solidify. Because of that, if the dead body was restored back to the position before death, the joints would produce a unique sound that can be detected using the echolocation rod.

This was a technique that enabled the coroner to determine the exact position that the body was in at the moment of death, and it was called Corpse Positioning. It was developed by a member of the Song family who served as a magistrate at the Dali Temple, and his name was Song Tianyang. He perfected the technique of Corpse Positioning to such an advanced level that it was said that he could make the dead body move on its own back to the position before death by using magnetic acupuncture. According to the records, the scene of a dead body moving seemingly of its own accord almost scared another official out of his wits!

This ancestor used to demonstrate this technique in court, and made the dead body ‘move’ on its own, pointing out the murderer among several suspects. The murderer immediately confessed to his crime.

We kept on adjusting and moving the limbs of the dead body carefully, until finally finding the original position that the victim was in before death.

Both of her hands were held up above her head, just like the position of Jesus at his crucifixion, and it seemed that she was hung on the wall! It was truly a harrowing sight.

I carefully observed every inch of the wall. It’s very likely that there would be some kind of hook here that allowed the murder to hang up the victim’s two hands. I touched the wall with my fingers, and discovered that the wallpaper was freshly pasted, and it felt like there was a peephole behind the wallpaper.

“Someone nailed something onto this wall,” I said, “and it was recently patched up!”

I used my Cave Vision to scrutinized every inch of the wall, and found a line on the wallpaper that was slightly bulging up from the flat surface of the wall. I tore the wallpaper away and discovered that it was a black wire.

When electric wires were installed in a building, they’re always buried in the wall and protected by a plastic tube as a fire prevention and safety measure. The fact that this wire was hidden behind the wallpaper meant that someone deliberately installed an electrical device but wanted to keep it hidden.

“We have to find where it connects to!” I said.

“Everyone, give us a hand!”

Xiaozhou ordered the members of the forensics team to tear down the wallpaper and pull out all the wires. They finally found a pinhole camera next to the main ceiling light of the room, and it seemed to be pointing at the bed below it.

Everyone gasped.

“Must be some pervert! That’s disgusting!” exclaimed Huang Xiaotao.

“But this means that we might find a major clue from the camera!” I said.

Huang Xiaotao nodded.

“Get the hotel manager here now!” she ordered one of the police officers.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter