By this point, Xiaotao was completely convinced by my reasoning. "So you believe that the murderer’s purpose of killing Mrs. Ding is to frame Mr. Ding?"
"I can't say for certain,” I waved my hand. “The frame-up can be considered killing two birds with one stone. It not only allows the murderer to go scot-free, but it also pins the blame on someone else. We cannot yet determine which is the real motive. But we can say that the investigation of the case has just begun!”
"From the murderer's point of view, what if there’s a hiccup in one of the links of his plan? For example, what if the neighbor noticed the clock was slow?" Bingxin queried.
"The murderer would probably halt his plans for now and wait for a better opportunity. After all, who’s going to call the police to report a slow clock?!"
Xiaotao gently tapped her clenched fist against her head as if she were sorting out her thoughts. Half a minute later, she said, “The case is about to enter a trial. If you want to reopen the case, these alone are not enough because the material evidence we’ve gathered is enough to convict Mr. Ding. The prosecutor will not have the patience to listen to your reasoning. You must produce key evidence."
"You can speak to Mr. Ding's lawyer,” suggested Bingxin. “Tell him about this so he can plead not guilty."
"That doesn’t do anything,” I said, shaking my head. “Our aim isn’t to prove Mr. Ding's innocence but to find out who committed the crime! According to the legal doctrine, ‘Non bis in idem,’ no legal action can be instituted twice for the same cause of action. Even if Mr. Ding is found innocent, the real murderer is still at large."
"Are the words ‘still at large’ of the greatest shame to you?" laughed Xiaotao.
"You know me!" I chuckled.
"Song Yang-gege, how do you know so much?!” praised Bingxin. “I once watched an American TV series where a man was accused of killing his own daughter. He used the fact that he killed his wife to prove that he didn’t kill his daughter. However, he was acquitted before the trial for the murder of his wife and he swaggered out of court like a boss."
"How arrogant!” I sniffed. “However, that’s justice for you. And sometimes it can be really rigid."
"My father wanted me to be a lawyer,” sighed Bingxin. “I told him, ‘What's so good about being a lawyer?!’ How guilty would I feel if I knew I was defending a criminal!"
"Let's stop chatting and get back to work!” interrupted Xiaotao. “Should we double back to the crime scene?"
Upon further contemplation, I agreed to take another look at the scene. This time, we combed through the apartment, scouring for clues, though we came up empty. The murderer did a thorough job.
We left the crime scene at 4:00 pm. Bingxin was very excited to hear that Dali had set up his own business and wanted to visit the store.
"Dali has a girlfriend now. She’s a lovely junior from our school."
"Really? Take me to meet her!" Bingxin beamed.
Judging from her reaction, Bingxin merely regarded Dali as an ordinary friend. On the eve of graduation, the idiot was still torn between Bingxin and Luo Youyou, but it seemed his worries were for naught.
The girls decided to return to the station to punch in, then meet up with Dali together. Right past the doors of the station, an officer came up to us and reported, "Captain Huang, the suspect secretly picked up a call in the afternoon. I asked him who it was and he claimed he didn't know!"
"Didn't we confiscate his cell phone?" Xiaotao asked in surprise.
"He has two cell phones,” explained the officer. “So he handed one in and hid the other."
Concerned about this matter, I grabbed the evidence bag with the cell phone. The call Mr. Ding received this afternoon came from a strange number. Xiaotao assigned an officer to check its origins. It was a name I had never heard of.
Xiaotao took out her cell phone and started dialling. As soon as the call connected, a man scowled, "I'm downstairs Building 4. Come down now!"
It took us both a moment to react–the man was probably a courier. "Hello, I am an officer from the Nanjiang City Bureau. Did you call the number 1014 in the afternoon? Were you delivering something?"
"A conman? Fuck off!" he growled.
And with that, the man dropped the call. Eyes burning with anger, Xiaotao ordered the officer next to her, "Have the operator call him again!"
"Does it show 110 when the operator calls?" asked Bingxin.
"That’s not how it works,” I shook my head. “You can’t dial out from 110."
After speaking to the call operator, the courier was convinced we were the real deal. He politely explained that he was supposed to deliver a parcel to the neighborhood in the afternoon, addressed to Mrs. Ding. But because he couldn't get through to her, he called the alternative contact number provided in the details which was Mr. Ding’s. He described the parcel as a rectangular box, though he couldn’t say what the contents were.
"Come to the station and drop it off here!"
There was a hint of reluctance in the courier's voice, "I still have a lot of parcels to deliver. Can this wait?"
"Come now and I'll tip you 200 yuan," Xiaotao offered.
"I'll be right there," The courier's attitude immediately underwent a 180 transformation.
Fifteen minutes later, the courier came in his battery car and handed us a package. Upon opening it, we were greeted with the exact fruit knife as the murder weapon, still tightly bound with bubble wrap.
"Take it for fingerprint analysis!" ordered Xiaotao.
"There’s no need for that,” I asserted. “This is a new knife, and it’s also key evidence!"
"What do you mean?" Xiaotao had her reservations.
I turned the box in front of her and smiled, "Don't you understand? Why did Mrs. Ding purchase an identical knife?"
Bingxin was first to wise up to the fact. "I see! The original knife was missing!"
Bingxin’s words had Xiaotao knocked for a loop. Although Bingxin's little head was usually filled with all her wild imaginations, this time she was right on the money. "You’re right,” I nodded. “This knife has solved two points of uncertainty."
The knife used to cut the apple was temporarily used as a fruit knife because the real one was lost.
Then there were the fingerprints on the murder weapon which could now be explained. The murderer had stolen the fruit knife before committing the crime. Since the knife originally belonged to the Dings, it wasn’t at all surprising to find Mr. Ding’s fingerprints on it. As for the knife in our hands, it was the replacement Mrs. Ding ordered after losing the fruit knife.
In other words, the murder weapon was brought into the crime scene by the murderer–it wasn’t originally there!
"Who would’ve thought we’d have such an important piece of evidence delivered straight to our door!” Xiaotao snapped her fingers. “I’ll immediately apply for a reinvestigation!"
While Xiaotao went through the formalities, I dropped by the detention room. Mr. Ding was still sitting listlessly in his chair, looking forlorn. Upon noticing me, he perked up. "Officer, have you found any clues?"
"Do you have any enemies?" I asked cryptically.
Mr. Ding took a moment to respond, "I’m just an ordinary Section Chief. Why would I have any enemies?"
"What about your wife?" I added.
"My wife?” Mr. Ding shook his head, “She’s just an ordinary housewife. How could she have any enemies?"
Clearly, we needed a detailed investigation into the couple's interpersonal relationships. "Don't worry,” I assured him. “We’ve made some significant progress. We will definitely catch the real murderer and prove your innocence!"
Mr. Ding excitedly wiped away his tears, "Thank you, officer! I’m so lucky to have met you! How should I address you?"
I was most afraid of people looking to repay my kindness so I modestly replied, "I’m just a criminal consultant. I don’t have any authority."
"Don't lie to me,” cried Mr. Ding. “The captain even brought you a chair and listened to you. You must be some big shot! By the way, can I go home now?"
That wasn’t something I could decide. Right then, Xiaotao entered the room and snapped, "No, you can’t! You’ll be held here for a few more days!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter