Chapter 357: Enigma

"The door wasn’t closed?" I mused.

"Yes, I closed it. I was driving at the time so I didn't think too much of it," admitted Mr. Li.

“What about your leg? Were you pinched?" I asked.

"No,” Mr. Li shook his head. “I was pricked!"

I asked Mr. Li to show me his wound but Xiaotao’s presence seemed to make him uncomfortable.

"I'll look from your side of the table,” I laughed. “She won’t be able to see a thing."

Only then did Mr. Li slowly unzip his trousers and expose his thigh. There was indeed a red spot that looked like it had been pricked by something sharp. "Officer, I’m worried that I might catch some disease from that prick. Can you order a test for it?" he asked uneasily.

Xiaotao nodded, "I'll get the coroner to take some blood samples for testing later!"

Of course, this was all to comfort him since many viruses had long incubation periods and couldn’t be tested immediately. The Imitator had only pricked Mr. Lin to wake him up so he should be safe.

Another thing occurred to me then. "How’s your wife's eyesight?"

"Pretty good!" blurted Mr. Li.

I frowned; he was telling the truth up to this point, but that was a lie. 

"Tell the truth!" I demanded, voice with a hard edge.

Mr. Li lowered his face into his arms and sobbed, "She’s already dead so I guess there’s no need to hide it. Officer, she was in fact nearsighted."

"Why lie about this?" I asked out of curiosity.

Mr. Li confessed that it was related to his wife's job. She worked at the airport and strived to join the cabin crew; it was her goal to become a flight attendant. But the industry was very strict about eyesight so she kept it from everyone else.

"Who else knows about your wife's condition?" 

"No one except me!" he clarified.

We sent Mr. Li back to his cell to go back after obtaining a clearer understanding of the entire incident. This time, the crime was nothing short of brilliant.

The Imitator snuck into the rear compartment of the car in the parking lot and covered a rag soaked with water on Mr. Li’s face. At the same time, he squeezed his jugular vein with his fingers, causing a lack of oxygen to Mr. Li’s brain and rendering him unconscious.

However, the Imitator delayed hypnotizing Mr. Li at this point because of a time constraint. Instead, he sat in the driver's seat and made a phone call to stop Mrs. Li in her tracks. The nearsighted woman couldn’t distinguish between her husband and the man sitting in the car. I suspect the Imitator might have been wearing the same clothes as Mr. Li.

Right then, the Imitator accelerated, killed Mrs. Li and fled...

His aim was to frame Mr. Li for the crime so killing the victim wasn’t enough. He needed witnesses. Thus, he drove to a car wash, deliberately attracted the car wash manager’s attention and then drove off onto the highway.

The Imitator must have hypnotized Mr. Li on the road. In an unconscious or sleeping state, people were susceptible to hypnosis just as I had verified with Dali.

A few hours later, the Imitator carried Mr. Li onto the driver's seat, placed his hands on the steering wheel and stepped on the accelerator. When everything was perfect, he woke Mr. Li up with a bradawl and jumped out of the car. And all this was done on a speeding vehicle.

With Mr. Li’s profession and habits, the Imitator knew he would continue driving even after he had regained consciousness, thus creating the illusion of murdering his wife and absconding. What a bold and ingenious plan!

This time, the murder weapon was the car. The technical team only found Mr. and Mrs. Li’s fingerprints on it. Mr. Li’s fingerprints and hair were concentrated around the steering wheel and the driver's seat, with no evidence of a third person. Combined with the surveillance video in the parking lot, the evidence would have been irrefutable.

If it weren’t for the previous case, this would have been deemed as another common case of uxoricide.

Upon listening to my speculations, Xiaotao sighed, "But from the Imitator’s standpoint, the case is rather risky!"

I nodded, "That’s because the couple only met once a week, leaving few opportunities for him to commit the murder. The duration for both crimes is seven days. In the last case, we found seven evening papers in the living room of the unoccupied apartment, indicating that he stayed there for seven days."

"If it's supposed to be a frame-up, isn’t it easier to kill one of his students and shift the blame onto him? After all, Mr. Li is a driving instructor so he’s bound to use the car every day. Why go to great lengths just to kill the wife?"

Following this train of thought, I contemplated the case. The Imitator's technique showed detached calmness and a clear motive that remained separate from personal feelings. Yet both cases were uxoricide. There must be some connection!

"Look for any connection between the two victims!" I instructed.

"Leave the investigation to me,” assured Xiaotao. “You should rest now. It's 4 o'clock in the morning."

"You too!" I patted Xiaotao on the arm.

I had just taken a few steps when Xiaotao suddenly cried, "It's so dark out. Let me send you home."

I shook my head and smiled, "No, it’s alright!"

Ever since I acquired the Eyes of Yama, I became more accustomed to the night. Gone was the sense of insecurity; I even enjoyed walking alone in the dark.

Perhaps this was the true embodiment of the Eyes of Yama–Lord of the night.

The next morning, Xiaotao held a meeting. Aside from the clues we discussed yesterday, officers also found the spot where the Imitator jumped off the car–a blind spot between the two traffic monitoring cameras.

Through repeated comparisons of the two monitoring cameras, the technical team found a slight difference in the driver. The Imitator was cautious enough not to reveal his face, deliberately covering himself with a hat which would render our findings useless in court.

Like the first case, the Imitator rented an empty apartment near Mr. Li's dormitory and stayed there for about a week. The details were still under investigation.

As for the connection between the two wives, Wang Yuanchao who was placed in charge of this had yet to discover any intersections in both their work and social lives.

After the meeting, I decided to drop by the section of the road where the Imitator escaped as I expected to find some clues from his tracks.

I got out of the car and started on foot at the side of the road. The area surrounding the highway was deserted with lush greenery in early summer. Bingxin stood there with a little umbrella. 

“Miss Sun insisted on coming along and no one could stop her!" Xiaotao smiled wryly.

"Her enthusiasm is good!” I commended. “She’s much better than those coroners who refuse to participate in anything besides the autopsy."

We spread out and conducted a thorough search of the area. A while later, an officer reported a discovery. We rushed over and found indentations in the grass as well as footprints. The tracks were clear enough to be observed without the Autopsy Umbrella.

Carefully examining the traces on the ground, I endeavored to restore the Imitator's physical characteristics. "This person wears size 38 shoes, is slightly overweight and is about 1.75 meters tall,” I observed, narrowing my eyes. “He’s timid and cautious, right-handed, and lifts his heels when walking... Wait, no!"

"What’s wrong?" asked Xiaotao.

Only then did I realize my observations perfectly described Mr. Li’s characteristics. Even after jumping out of the car, the Imitator was still in character, mimicking Mr. Li's every move.

"But the height and shoe size can’t be wrong, can it?" frowned Xiaotao.

"That's not necessarily true. He could have been wearing elevator shoes to imitate the suspect. In order to reduce the force of impact when jumping off the vehicle, he might have also intentionally padded his clothes."

This was my first time encountering a criminal who had zero self-identity. And what an enigma he was!

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