Upon hearing this, Xiaotao and I rushed into the room where Dali lay under the sheets, torso hung over the side and hands propped against the floor as he vomited uncontrollably. I pretended to be surprised and asked, "Dali, did you eat something bad?"
Still flushed, Dali mumbled, "I drank too much. Pour me a glass of hot water!"
I brought him a glass of water and a wet towel. Dali's skin was boiling hot, cheeks red like a ripe tomato–the man was completely drunk.
“Geez, alcohol can really kill you!” Dali took a sip of the warm water and wiped his face with the towel.
"You don't have to work so hard, holding these dinners with the clients. It’s not good for you!" I urged.
Dali sighed, "I can't help it. They kept filling my glass..." At this point, Dali suddenly froze, brows furrowed as he desperately tried to recall. "Dude, who was I drinking with last night?" he asked.
"How should I know!" I retorted.
"Damn, I’m losing my memory! Is this a sign of premature aging?” he lamented. “I can’t remember a single thing!"
"Don't think about it now, just lie down. I'll get you some vinegar to relieve the hangover,” I said.
I brought him a small cup of vinegar which he immediately downed. "Do you feel better?" I asked.
"Much better!" he nodded.
Because Dali’s subconscious remembered my voice, my words still contained the power of suggestion.
I told Dali to lie down. "Dude, thanks for being here,” he added, voice tinged with gratitude. “I wouldn’t know what to do if it weren’t for you."
"Alright, that’s enough talk,” I waved my hand. “Have a good rest. I’ll leave you to it."
As soon as I left the room, I was greeted by a laughing Xiaotao. "Hahahaha, you’re so wicked!" she clapped me on the back.
"I was just demonstrating hypnosis!" I grinned.
The test tonight was meaningful for two reasons–first of all, people were vulnerable to hypnotic suggestions in their sleep. And most importantly, water could be turned into alcohol with hypnotic suggestion, so it could just as well serve as drugs.
"Do you mean to say that the Imitator rendered the suspect unconscious by hypnotizing him into believing he had inhaled a sedative?" surmised Xiaotao.
"This is the only possibility I can come up with!" I admitted.
"How did the Imitator hypnotize the suspect in such a short amount of time?” Xiaotao pointed out. “He doesn't have Li Wenjia's eyes."
After a moment’s contemplation, I suggested, "Let's go meet our suspect!"
We drove down to the station that was still brightly lit with officers on the hop due to the investigation of tonight’s case. When Xiaotao and I entered the detention room, the suspect, Mr. Li, wailed at the sight of us, "You have to help me. I really didn't kill my wife! I’ve told you a thousand times, I was unconscious!"
"Don't worry,” I comforted. “We’re here to investigate the case. Come with us to the interrogation room!"
"Again? But the chair is so uncomfortable,” grumbled Mr. Li. “The officer who just questioned me even blinded me with the lamp. Can’t we talk here?"
"Don’t worry, we won't blind you with the lamp,” laughed Xiaotao. “Are you hungry? I'll order you some food and we can talk while you’re eating."
Xiaotao’s words seemed to have the effect of relaxing Mr. Li’s vigilance. The officer next to us opened the cell door, and as soon as Mr. Li walked out, I noticed two bruises on his neck. The size and pattern suggested his throat was squeezed by someone’s thumb and forefinger.
"What happened to your throat?" I began.
"What?" Mr. Li wasn’t aware he had a bruise.
I measured the positioning of the bruise with my hands and waved him off. Xiaotao asked the officer to escort him to the interrogation room while she ordered takeout.
Meanwhile, we waited till the food arrived and Mr. Li dug in. Mr. Li started by introducing himself, "My name is Li Dazhi. I’m 34 years old and my occupation is..."
"Alright, that’s enough,” Xiaotao waved a hand. “We already know all of that. Just relax."
"We believe you’re innocent!" I added.
"Thank you, thank you so much!" Mr. Li stretched out a hand to shake mine but I ignored him. After all, the interrogator and suspect had to keep a certain distance during the interrogation.
"Tell me everything that happened tonight!" I ordered.
Mr. Li explained that he worked in a driving school and only returned home once a week. The couple headed to the supermarket tonight to buy groceries and were discussing some family affairs when he received several phone calls. His wife had always been a little neurotic about being interrupted during a conversation.
Although Mr. Li was annoyed with the calls, his students were calling so he was forced to answer their questions patiently. Upon hanging up, he noticed his wife was upset. She argued it was a matter of principle, that Mr. Li never paid any attention to her. Thus, the two spiraled into a heated argument.
I recognized this as a deliberate set up by the Imitator who knew Mrs. Li had a strong aversion to the matter. And Mr. Li was a driving instructor so this made for the perfect fuse!
The quarrel in the parking lot ended with Mrs. Li stomping off in anger. On the other hand, Mr. Li stayed in the car, unloading the groceries. Just then, someone covered his nose and mouth with a rag prompting a fierce struggle from Mr. Li, though he gradually lost consciousness.
"Do you remember what it smelled like?" I interrupted.
"It was a little sweet and rather pungent!"
He perfectly described the smell of ether, but his manner of speaking raised serious doubts. The textbook description of the smell sounded as if he had read that somewhere in a book.
This suggested his memory was forcibly implanted after hypnosis. He believed it was the smell he perceived at the time, but in fact, he smelled nothing.
I nodded and motioned for him to continue. Mr. Li described that he was unconscious for several hours before a sudden stabbing pain in his leg woke him up. The next thing he knew, he found himself on the highway with both hands gripping the steering wheel. Frightened out of his wits, Mr. Li drove on, his mind desperately scrambling to make sense of it all.
He tried to clear his mind. How did he drive all the way here? As a driving instructor, he understood that drivers did fall asleep at the wheel.
Bits and pieces of his fragmented memories came back to him but he was still unaware of his wife’s death. He tried calling her and couldn’t get through so he decided to keep on driving since it was a one-way road without any exits.
Right then, a fleet of police cars appeared behind him. At first, Mr. Li didn't know he was their target until they flanked him from the left and the right, shouting through a megaphone for him to pull over, to which Mr. Li gladly obeyed.
To his utter shock, a group of SWAT officers seized and handcuffed him without so much as a word. Then he was taken to the bureau for interrogation. Only halfway through the interrogation did Mr. Li realize what had happened and immediately burst into tears.
At the end of his story, Mr. Li wiped away the tears and swore, "I don't know who killed my wife but he’ll pay for what he’s done!"
I waited till he calmed down before asking, "Does anything stand out to you?"
Without a second thought, Mr. Li huffed, "Of course, I was terrified! If you suddenly wake up and find yourself driving at 60 miles an hour on the highway, wouldn’t you be afraid? "
He wrung his eyebrows, "The door of the passenger seat wasn’t properly closed."Previous Chapter Next Chapter