Xiaotao and I headed to the forensic laboratory where a body covered with white cloth lay on the autopsy table. The extracted organs were placed in the metal dish beside the body. Aside from the foul odor coming from the internal organs, I also smelled the scent of tea.
Bingxin was jotting her findings at the desk next to the body, with a half-eaten doughnut and hot jasmine tea in her thermos lid.
"Miss Sun, how can you eat while working?" Xiaotao chided. “Are you here to have fun or work?”
I didn't think that was the point, but rather the fact that Bingxin could actually stomach food in such an environment...
Bingxin swivelled her chair and shrugged, "I’m so bored. It turns out that all a coroner does is write reports. Had I known this is what it was like, I would’ve chosen to be a Traditional Coroner instead."
"I’m sorry to disappoint you. There are no female Traditional Coroners!" I laughed.
Bingxin ran over and grabbed a pair of non-prescription glasses from her pocket and put them on. The glasses were huge and covered almost half of her face. "Song Yang-gege, everyone says I have a baby face. Does this make me look more mature?" she asked.
"You look like a whole new person!" I chuckled.
Bingxin laughed heartily but Xiaotao gibed, "Nothing can hide your childish face."
"You’re the childish one!" Bingxin snorted.
"How am I childish?" Xiaotao retorted.
"Well, people who call others childish are the most childish!" Bingxin quipped.
"Those who don’t know how childish they are, are the most childish!"
Like cats and dogs, the two were at loggerheads every time they met.
“Aren’t you two ashamed to behave like this in public?” I reproached. “By the way, I’m going to take a look at the body."
"But I’ve already dissected the corpse!" Bingxin blurted.
"It doesn't matter,” I waved my hand. “I’ll just take a look."
Bingxin uncovered the white cloth, revealing a woman's body with her open chest cavity. Perhaps it had been some time since Xiaotao last saw a dissected corpse, but she covered her mouth with some discomfort.
"Xiaotao-jiejie, would you like some tea?" Bingxin smirked.
Xiaotao glared at Bingxin, fully aware of her deliberate provocation.
"What have you found?" I interrupted.
Bingxin walked around the autopsy table with her hands in her pockets and said, "The time of death was about 7:30 to 8:00 last night. And the cause of death was asphyxiation and shock brought about by blood reflux when the laryngeal vein ruptured. There were no signs of struggle, no drugs found, and no injuries other than the bruises she sustained during her attempt to reach for the phone."
Bingxin pointed to a plastic bag filled with liquid. "That's the victim's stomach contents. She had seafood for dinner. From the degree of digestion of the food, the time of death can actually be shortened by a few minutes."
"So what you’re saying is the victim must have died before 8 o'clock, am I right?" I surmised.
I put on a pair of rubber gloves and checked the wound. The incision was neat, inflicted from the right to left and from an oblique angle, which suggested that the murderer's dominant hand was his left. I recalled that the suspect was also left-handed.
Bingxin handed over a fruit knife in an evidence bag. It was very sharp and stained with some solidified blood. "This is the murder weapon found at the scene. The knife edge is consistent with the wound."
There was no doubt about the murder weapon so I turned my attention to the wound. "There’s some blood in her vocal cords."
"What?" Bingxin leaned in to have a look. "Oh my God, you’re right!"
Human vocal cords were located in the middle of the throat and consisted of vocal cord muscles, ligaments and mucous membranes. These vocal folds opened and closed very quickly. Have you ever heard of anyone choking on water in their vocal cords? Almost no one!
The blood in the victim’s vocal cords indicated that the murderer slashed her throat the moment she opened her mouth to scream. Only trained professionals could achieve this reaction speed.
The victim’s pupils were extremely dilated and her expression was of extreme shock. I picked up her limbs and moved them for a moment, squeezing them. Then I got Sun Bingxin to collect several tools from the Necropsy Workshop.
I briefly discussed the case with Xiaotao until Bingxin returned with the Echolocation Rod, a bottle of chemical solution and some silver needles. I dipped the silver needles in the liquid and inserted them into the victim’s legs muscles.
"What’s this for?" asked Xiaotao.
"It’s to measure the pH level,” I explained.
"The pH level?" Xiaotao was puzzled. While Traditional Coroners did use a pH level test to determine if the victim was poisoned, I wasn’t aiming for this at all.
After waiting for about five minutes, I pulled out the silver needles.
"The color of the needle has changed!"
"Was the victim poisoned?" Both Xiaotao and Bingxin asked at the same time.
"No, this determines the acidity of the muscles immediately before the victim’s death. That’s why the color of the silver needles coated with alkaline water has changed."
The acidity of the muscles referred to the lactic acid produced in the muscles under the condition of high muscle tension. This was the cause of the soreness felt after strenuous exercise.
Xiaotao asked me what this meant but I didn't explain right away. Instead, I grabbed the Echolocation Rod and listened to each of the victim’s joints, my other hand slowly correcting the position of the victim’s limbs and restoring it to the posture right before death.
Since the victim was lying flat, her position wasn’t obvious from this angle. I repeated the movements once more. The victim had her arms stretched forward, legs tensed and torso twisted to the left.
"This movement suggests the victim was acting in self defense. But that’s not at all surprising. Anyone who’s faced with a knife-wielding man would react the same," Xiaotao dismissed.
"But it’s not just any man. It's her husband, with whom she spent day and night!” I pointed out. “Mr. Ding mentioned that he wasn’t respected at home. If such a man were to grab a knife to hurt his wife, what should his wife's reaction be?"
"She’d show defiance!" Bingxin asserted.
"Yes, you’re right!" I concurred.
Xiaotao shook her head, "I think this idea is totally far-fetched. How they usually got along doesn’t matter. Her survival instincts would certainly kick in, prompting resistance when encountering fatal danger."
"Let's say for example..." I continued.
I suddenly walked up to Xiaotao, my face almost touching hers. "What are you doing?" she asked in surprise.
"Why didn't you dodge?"
Xiaotao laughed, "I know you won't hurt me. Why should I dodge?"
Bingxin frowned, slightly unhappy at our closeness. Although this experiment was a bit abrupt, I was trying to explain a simple principle.
"In psychology, there’s the theory of proxemics! For the average person, a distance of about one meter for acquaintances falls under the safe zone. The safe zone between friends is about half a meter to one meter. And between intimate people, the distance is half a meter to zero. If a stranger crosses the safe zone, we instinctively feel nervous and uneasy. Therefore, the victim’s reactions suggest she wasn’t facing her own husband, but a stranger!"
"I think..." Xiaotao began.
Right then, I noticed Bingxin’s shadow on the floor. She sneakily approached me from behind and held a hard object against my throat. "What if someone close to you wants to hurt you?" she queried.
I wasn’t startled since I anticipated her actions. "Why is your reaction so slow?" Bingxin pouted, disappointed by my reaction.
"Because I know you won’t hurt me!" The object she was holding against my throat were her glasses.
"A person’s actions will not contradict their character,” I noted. “In the eyes of the victim, it’s impossible for her weak husband to do such a thing. Even if he rushed at her with a fruit knife, she wouldn’t have been so frightened or defended herself!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter