According to the Imitator’s pattern, the next crime would happen one week from now. The police covered all their bases investigating the case, but in the face of such a mysterious criminal, the more we discovered, the further away the murderer seemed!
I continued searching through the recent cases in Nanjiang City and on the third day, a case in the Taoyuan Precinct caught my eye. It was also a case of uxoricide that happened three weeks ago with aspects that matched the Imitator’s MO.
The suspect, Mr. Jia, had been transferred to the detention center awaiting trial. Xiaotao phoned the Taoyuan Precinct and asked for all the files pertaining to the case.
Without delay, the files were delivered and spread over the desk. I picked them up one by one and perused the information.
Here were the facts: three weeks ago, Mrs. Jia's maternal home received a call from her, claiming Mr. Jia was going to kill her. She sounded extremely flustered and hung up almost immediately.
When Mrs. Jia’s parents rushed to the Jia home, they found the door unlocked and the smell of blood originating from the apartment.
Completely distraught, Mrs. Jia’s parents opened the door only to find their daughter lying on the ground with her head smashed in. The murder weapon was a barbell, and there were footprints on the door left by Mr. Jia when he kicked it.
The police found Mr. Jia's fingerprints and skin cells on the murder weapon and all over the crime scene. At that point, Mr. Jia's whereabouts were unknown but a few days later, police found him in a rented apartment and arrested him.
Mr. Jia's statement was full of loopholes. He claimed he and his wife were getting a divorce, and that night, his wife called him home to sign the divorce agreement. But when he got home, he heard the voice of a strange man as well as his wife in the throes of passion.
Mr. Jia was enraged; how could his wife bring her lover back to his house!
He tried opening the door, only to find that the lock had been changed. After several angry roars, still no one came to answer the door. In a fit of pique, he kicked the door open. But when he entered the apartment, he was greeted by the gruesome sight of his wife lying in a pool of blood, her brains splattered all over the floor.
Something tripped Mr. Jia, though he wasn’t sure what it was. He ended up stumbling onto the pool of blood. Frightened out of his wits, he tore hell for leather out the door with his mind sluggish from panic.
When the police asked Mr. Jia why he hadn’t called the police at the time, he admitted his fear of being implicated. However, he later altered his statement, confessing he had liaised with a hitman on the internet during the worst phase of the couple’s relationship. The other party actually took the initiative to look for him but the transaction didn’t go through because the price exceeded his expectations. Mr. Jia was terrified the matter would be revealed, drawing suspicion to himself, so he simply pretended to be away at the time.
After reading the case files, I contemplated for a bit.
"Have you found something?" Xiaotao interrupted.
"Can I speak to the suspect?" I asked.
"This case has already gone through judicial procedures. It’ll be a little difficult but you can visit him in prison, just not today."
I nodded, "Let’s head to the crime scene first!"
Mr. Jia's home had been sealed by the court. Although a thin sheet of paper stood between us and the apartment, tearing it down would be tantamount to overstepping the government’s authority.
"What are you afraid of?” Xiaotao smirked. “If anything, I’m responsible!"
She was just about to remove it when I stopped her. "Wait!"
I ran to the convenience store downstairs and purchased a few heat packs and a bottle of mineral water. After applying the heat packs to the bottle, the water inside soon heated up. Then I softened the court seal, gently removed it and unlocked the door with my tools.
"You’re full of clever ideas, aren’t you?” Xiaotao stared in wide-eyed wonder. “You best stay on the right side of the law!"
"Being a burglar would be so boring, especially without a beautiful officer by my side!" I chuckled.
"For the sake of public security and stability in Nanjiang City, I must stay beautiful then," Xiaotao solemnly added.
The crime scene had been scrubbed clean without a trace of blood visible to the naked eye. At first glance, I noticed that the bathroom was situated next to the door. I looked inside and found more than enough room for a person to hide.
"What a daring and clever man!" I remarked.
"What have you found?"
I shook my head, "It's just a guess for now. With what we have so far, I can’t prove it was the Imitator. After all, the relationship between husband and wife was very poor. Perhaps it's a simple case of uxoricide after all."
"Let’s just assume it’s him," Xiaotao replied.
"Alright then, we’ll assume it’s the Imitator we’re dealing with!" I concurred.
If this had also been orchestrated by him, then the man must be a genius! This time, it wasn’t the husband he feigned but the wife. The crime itself was straightforward–the Imitator walked into the apartment and killed the wife. Then he called the husband and possibly with the help of a voice alteration software, asked him to come over to sign the divorce agreement. When the husband arrived, the murderer performed the act of an illicit sexual affair in the bedroom, fully aware and counting on Mr. Jia’s tempestuous character for the man to make a drastic move.
While Mr. Jia hysterically kicked the door open, the Imitator hid in the bathroom by the main entrance. He was waiting for the horrific scene to hit Mr. Jia before sliding out a foot to trip him, successfully staining his hands with blood.
The hitman who found Mr. Jia online was another character played by the Imitator, for no other reason than to guilt him so he wouldn’t dare call the police! In this way, the suspicion on Mr. Jia would be magnified indefinitely.
After the husband fled the scene, the Imitator called the wife’s parents with the voice alteration software, using her voice to expose her husband’s murderous intentions. Then, he calmly left the crime scene.
The crime wasn’t so much a frame-up as it was discrediting Mr. Jia’s every word.
Of course, these were all my speculations which I couldn't yet verify. Besides the key evidence found in the Ding case, the Li case was still up in the air. If we didn't catch the Imitator, both Mr. Li and Mr. Jia would be convicted and incarcerated.
The furniture in the room had evidence seals on them. I didn’t have to take them apart one by one to know what was inside. All I had to do was stick my ears close, tap and knock with my hands.
There seemed to be some items in the drawer of the dresser. I repeated the same trick and carefully removed the seal, finding cosmetics, health supplements and a cell phone inside. The cell phone was dead so I turned to Xiaotao, "Do you have a charger?"
"I'll remove my battery!" said Xiaotao.
Xiaotao detached the battery and connected it to the cell phone we found with a cable. As it hadn’t been turned on in some time, a bunch of notifications popped up. I glanced through them but found no clues of importance until I checked her WeChat account.
After a quick browse, a message caught my attention. The victim had texted her friend: "Thank goodness! I finally got my driver's license. One of my classmates’ husband is a driving instructor. It’s all thanks to him that I passed on my second try."
Xiaotao and I exchanged a meaningful look. A thorough scroll through the victim’s address book revealed a contact person named “Mr. Li from driving school.”
"Do you have Mr. Li's number?" I asked Xiaotao.
"Yes... but I’ve just removed my battery!" she pointed out.
I phoned the station and officers confirmed that our suspect, Mr. Li, was the same “Mr. Li from driving school” in the victim’s phone. In other words, the two victims were classmates... The three victims were of similar age so perhaps they were all classmates!
We finally found a connection between the three cases!Previous Chapter Next Chapter