"No drug residue in his body?" I mused. If that was the case, how did the murderer switch identities in the car?
Of course, all our current deductions were based on the preconception that the murderer was the Imitator. But there was another possibility–it might just be a simple case of uxoricide.
If so, the evidence collected so far was conclusive enough to convict the suspect at once. But it was exactly this reason that propelled my doubts.
I waved my hand, "Let’s talk to the witness. Is the car wash manager still at work?"
"The man was on the night shift and should still be there," nodded Xiaotao.
"By the way, do me a favor, won’t you?"
I asked Xiaotao to send an officer into the detention room to take a video of the suspect in custody. Xiaotao was curious about my intentions, to which I mysteriously replied, "It’ll come in handy!"
We drove to the car wash, where dirty vehicles entered the automatic equipment and came out looking brand-new. I suddenly recalled that Chinese detective Li Changyu had once solved a seemingly simple yet complicated case. A man had quarreled with someone in a restaurant, dragged him outside and beat him half dead. Then, he ran over him with his car and scrubbed the car afterwards.
There were a lot of eyewitnesses to the crime but no material evidence. Only when the suspect's car was taken apart did Li Changyu discover a small patch of blood on the chassis which was enough to convict the man.
In fact, many of Li Changyu’s cases were very simple, without the twists and turns shown in movies and TV series. However, his perseverance and persistence were worth learning from for every detective.
Right then, a young man covered with acne walked up and asked us if we wanted to wash our car. Xiaotao flashed his badge, surprising the young man.
"Officer! Weren’t your colleagues just here? What else do you want to know?" the young man cried.
I got down from the car and asked, "What drew your attention to the man earlier?"
"Everything! How could I not have noticed that his bumper was all deformed and covered in blood?!” exclaimed the car wash manager. “At a glance, it was obvious he had been up to no good!"
"Did the man get out of his car?"
"Yes, he bought a pack of cigarettes from across the street after cleaning his car," nodded the manager.
I got him to describe the suspect’s height and characteristics, then showed him the suspect's photo. "Is this him?" I questioned.
The manager scratched his head, stared for a long time and finally shook his head, "Doesn’t look like him!"
Then I pulled up the video of the suspect walking back and forth in the detention room, to which the young man said with great certainty, "Yes! That's him. That’s exactly how he walks!"
Clearly, the manager hadn’t realized that the man in the photo and video were the same person. Xiaotao arched an eyebrow in surprise while I thanked him and headed to our car. "Does he have face blindness?" she asked.
"Although most people might joke about this, the incidence of this disease is very low,” I remarked. “I think his cognitive ability is completely normal."
"Then why didn't he recognize the suspect from the photo but from the video instead?" argued Xiaotao.
"In fact, a person's perception of another is eight percent by face, while the rest is all body language, speech and behavior!” I explained. “The Imitator knows this very well, which is why there’s no need for him to change his face. All he needs to do is perfectly clone another person's body language and manner of speaking, which is enough to confuse most strangers."
"So you’re sure the Imitator did this?"
"I’d like to say I’m eighty percent sure!" I replied.
"Would you like to speak to the suspect?"
"There’s no need to rush. Let's solve this little mystery first and find out how the Imitator switched identities in the middle!"
I told Xiaotao to drive to my place and it was 3:00 am by the time we arrived. We gently opened the door to see a sleeping Dali let out a loud grunt.
"Why did you bring me here?” Xiaotao lowered her voice. “To watch Dali sleep?"
"No, I want to show you hypnosis!"
"You know how to do that?!” blurted Xiaotao.
I crouched in front of Dali, played a soft, calming tune on my cell phone, and began, "Dali, listen carefully to me, you feel relaxed now..."
There weren’t any standard rules for hypnotic induction, as long as the hypnotist managed to guide the subject into a physically and mentally relaxed state. After Professor Li's case, I read up on hypnosis and found that the principle was very complicated but the technique was simple. A hypnotist didn't require particularly profound theoretical knowledge. Even laymen could do it with the right environment, technique, and a subject highly susceptible to hypnotic suggestion.
Uneducated farmers had a little trick where they laid a chicken sprawled on the ground and covered its eyes with their hands. Shortly after, the chicken would remain motionless and stop responding. This method was actually a simple form of hypnosis.
Put in plain words, hypnosis was actually being fascinated by something or someone. Real-life examples of shallow hypnosis–people being entranced or transfixed, included students listening carefully in class or fans spellbound by an idol’s performance.
I patiently guided Dali through hypnosis induction. At first, he showed no difference but soon stopped snoring entirely. In this state between sleep and wakefulness, he could hear every word I uttered.
In order to test if the hypnosis was a success, I raised one of his hands and said, "You feel your hands turning stiff, like wood, and you can't put them down."
"My hands…” Dali mumbled. “So stiff!"
I let go of his hand and a miracle happened. Dali's hand remained stiff and motionless in the air.
"How did you do that?" Xiaotao asked in surprise.
I motioned for her to keep quiet and grabbed a bottle of mineral water from the table. "Open your mouth, I have a bottle of strong liquor here. You must finish it!"
Dali obediently opened his mouth and I began to feed him the mineral water as I said, "You feel the pungent smell of alcohol permeating your mouth. A burning sensation rushes down your throat. Your stomach seems to be heating up and your head’s a little dizzy."
One-third of the bottle in, Dali suddenly choked and coughed, his eyelids moving rapidly. Stunned by Dali’s reaction, Xiaotao covered her mouth. Dali had now entered deep hypnosis and would remain in that state even if I slapped him.
"I can't drink anymore, I'm getting drunk!" Dali mumbled.
"You must finish it!" I insisted.
Dali resisted, "I feel dizzy and nauseous!"
"Drink it down! Open your mouth," I cried.
Although Dali refused to drink, his body reacted the opposite. In Lao Yao's words, I had now hacked into his brain and could manipulate him at will. Of course, this was only within the scope of his own principles. If I told him to run naked in the streets, he would struggle, put up strong resistance and eventually awaken.
Xiaotao watched in wide-eyed wonder as the bottle of water slowly disappeared down his throat. When the bottle was finally emptied, I asked, "How do you feel?"
"Dizzy, I’m floating... Stomach burns, nauseous!" muttered Dali.
"Now when I count to three, you will forget what just happened and wake up."
I waved at Xiaotao, gesturing for her to withdraw from the room while I counted, "One, two, three!" As soon as I closed the door, there came the sound of Dali overturning the chair, followed by a spate of vomiting.
Xiaotao lowered her voice, "You’re terrible!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter