Dali and I went back to the room where the murder happened. I looked up at the ceiling and saw some faint stains on it—just as I expected!
Because the dead body was still on the bed, I couldn’t just step on the bed to check the stains above. So, I asked Dali to get me a ladder. I then went through the forensics team’s toolbox and got myself a bottle of alcohol and some cotton swabs.
Soon, Dali came back with a ladder. I told him to set it up right next to the bed.
“What are you up to now, dude?” he asked.
I stepped on the ladder and gently rubbed the stain on the ceiling with a cotton swab that I’d dipped in alcohol. The alcohol dissolved the stain, lifting whatever substance it was onto the cotton swab. When the alcohol evaporated, the substance of the stain would remain on the cotton swab, which could then be tested. This was the method that modern forensic investigators used to collect liquid evidence.
I took a sniff at the cotton swab, then told Dali to smell it too.
“I don’t smell anything, dude,” he said, shaking his head.
“No, there’s definitely the smell of eel blood,” I said. “Someone sprayed it onto the ceiling to attract bats.”
I then looked up at the ceiling again and noticed the stain pattern.
“It was probably sprayed on with a water gun…” I said.
“Song Yang, come here now!” That was Huang Xiaotao’s voice coming from the other room.
We ran back to the other room, and Huang Xiaotao showed us the recording of the same room on the day before the murder occurred. There was a man wearing a mask dressed like a cleaner sneaking into the room. He nailed a nail onto the wall, then took out a water gun and shot some kind of liquid onto the ceiling.
I told them about the eel blood I found on the ceiling.
“Bats are naturally attracted to the smell of blood,” I said. “Especially eel blood which has a particulary rich scent. This is the perfect way to attract bats!”
“This is enough proof that the murderer is a human being,” I added. “Not a vampire.”
Xiaozhou’s face turned red.
“Maybe vampires can’t turn into bats,” he said. “But the rest of the legend is still true. There are always going to be some gaps between legends and reality.”
I could see it now. Xiaozhou’s mind was set on believing that the murderer was a vampire. He insisted on that when he made a bet with me, and he wasn’t planning to change his mind anytime soon.
“If he really is a vampire,” I said. “Then we shouldn’t have seen him in the video.”
“What do you mean?” asked Xiaozhou.
“Vampires cannot be reflected in the mirror and can’t be photographed. You should have heard of this in the legend, right?” I asked. “In that case, we shouldn’t be able to see him in the video.”
“But that might just be a part of the legend that’s not true!” Xiaozhou muttered.
“If this part is not true and that part is not true either,” said Dali, “then are you sure if there’s anything in the book you read that is true at all?”
Xiaozhou looked embarrassed and firmly insisted, “The mechanism behind a digital video camera is totally different from a reflection on the mirror or the lens of a camera, though! Maybe a video camera like this one could capture the image of the vampire, who knows?”
“If the man really was a vampire,” I said, “I don’t think that the victim is going to just lie there and let us examine her without getting up and biting everyone. You must’ve heard that those who get bitten by vampires will become vampires themselves, haven’t you? Isn’t that enough proof?”
“All right,” said Xiaozhou, finally relenting slightly. “Maybe the murderer in this case isn’t a vampire, but that doesn’t mean that vampires don’t exist at all in this world!”
There goes the stubborn mule again, I thought. If vampires did exist, and that they never aged and never died, the world would’ve been filled to the brim with vampires and there would’ve been no humans left.
Huang Xiaotao repeated the video and watched it two more times. She furrowed her brows and asked, “Can’t the video be enlarged?”
“No, it’s not a high-definition camera,” said the porter.
“Song Yang, did you find anything here?” she asked.
I stared at the video hard.
“The cleaner is probably the murderer’s accomplice,” I said. “His age is probably between 45 to 50, weighing around 80 kilograms, and is of a medium build. Judging by the way he’s acting in the video, this isn’t his first time here. He knew where to aim on the ceiling when he was spraying the eel blood with the water gun. He probably knew that there was a camera hidden there.”
“If he knows about the hidden camera, then that’s suspicious!” said Huang Xiaotao.
“Maybe he used to work in a hotel before,” the burly officer postulated. “Small and shady hotels like this one usually have hidden cameras near the television and the mirror.”
“Also,” I said, “he’s had a stroke before.”
“How could you possibly know that?” asked Huang Xiaotao. “Can your eyes see that too?”
“Of course not,” I answered, laughing. “The clues are right there on the screen. Watch carefully if you don’t believe me.”
Huang Xiaotao played the video again and watched it twice, but she couldn’t find anything.
“I still have no idea what you’re talking about, Song Yang,” she said, scratching her head. “What clues are there?”
“I noticed that he limps a little when he walks,” said the burly officer. “Is that the clue?”
I raised my thumb and said, “Yes, that’s one of the clues. But that alone wouldn’t be enough. The other clue is…”
I rewound the video using the remote control, and stopped it the moment the cleaner entered the room and was leaning the broom on the wall. I pointed to his wrist and said, “Look, the left sleeve of his shirt doesn’t cover his wrist.”
“So?” asked Huang Xiaotao.
I then fast forwarded the video a bit to the part where he was shooting the water gun with his right hand.
“Now look at how the right sleeve covered half of the man’s hand,” I said. “This means that his hands are of different lengths—that’s an aftereffect of a stroke.”
“Not necessarily,” said Xiaozhou. “Maybe it’s just that his clothes don’t fit him well, or that the sleeves themselves are of different lengths.”
“Yes, there is that possibility,” I said, “but when combined with the limp he has when he walks, doesn’t that make it more probable that he’s had a stroke?”
“You’ve got a point,” Huang Xiaotao admitted. “But it gets harder and harder for me to believe that you’re just a normal college student, seeing that you know so much.”
Dali waved his hands in front of my eyes and said, “Dude, how is your eyesight so good? You saw so many things that we didn’t even notice!”
I smiled modestly. In truth, recognizing the common pathological features of various diseases was one of the basic skills of a Traditional Coroner.
Now that we found out so many characteristics for the accomplice, Huang Xiaotao easily found the check-in record of the hotel’s guests. This cleaner was called Zhao Tieniu, a fifty-year-old farmer who lived in a village near the city.
Based on our investigation, he must’ve booked a room for two days as a guest, then dressed up as a cleaner and snuck into the other room to do what he did. The next day the murderer and the victim arrived, the murderer managed to leave the crime scene without leaving any clues behind.
In addition to that, the security cameras in the hallway had been turned away to another angle, and the staff of the hotel didn’t notice it, so the face of the murderer was never captured. Huang Xiaotao suspected that Zhao Tieniu was responsible for this too.
But I noticed something was wrong.
“This is strange,” I said. “The accomplice dressed up as a cleaner to sneak into the room, proving that he didn’t want his face to be seen. But then why did he check in using his own ID?”
“You mean to say…”
“It must be a fake ID!”
“In any case, it’s still a clue…” Huang Xiaotao then turned to an officer and said, “Xiaoxu, you go to the Household Registration Department and find out about this Zhao Tieniu.”
“Oh,” she said, turning back to me, “I asked Wang Yuanchao to take you and Dali back to your college.”
“Wang Yuanchao?” I asked.
She pointed to that reticent burly officer.
“Officer Wang used to be the chief drill instructor in the Chinese People’s Armed Police,” she explained. “He was transferred to the Criminal Division because of an injury. Don’t underestimate him because he’s quiet—he’s actually a dangerous fighter! I’ll entrust the task of picking you up to him from now on—you’re the precious gem of our team after all. I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
“Thank you for that kind thought,” I said. “I guess I’ll be relying on you from now on, Officer Wang.”
He coolly nodded.
Dali went in and patted Wang Yuanchao’s back.
“I thought you were just an average police officer!” he said. “Who would’ve thought that you were something as cool as the chief drill instructor! Isn’t Panther Head from the Water Margin himself an instructor of the 800,000 Imperial Guards too?”
“Team Leader Huang,” said Xiaozhou, “I think you’re mistaken about something. Wasn’t Drill Instructor Wang transferred to our department because he was punished for disobeying his orders and killing sixteen drug traffickers?”
Dali’s jaw dropped to the floor. He slowly lifted his hand off Wang Yuanchao’s shoulder and backed away. Huang Xiaotao glared at Xiaozhou and angrily spat, “Is it so hard for you to shut up sometimes?”
Wang Yuanchao waved his hand and said, “It’s all in the past now.”
I looked at Wang Yuanchao and couldn’t help but be in awe with the man. He appeared to be a big mountain of ice on the outside, but he was a fierce ball of fire on the inside. Although judging from what I’ve seen, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that he had a tendency for violent outbursts.
We returned to the crime scene. The police officers packed up the dead body while I burned a few joss papers and recited a few chants to help with the victim’s soul’s passing to the next realm.
Huang Xiaotao clapped her hands and said, “All right, everyone! It’s now 3 a.m. so you should all go back and take a rest. Tomorrow we’ll have a meeting at eight in the morning. Anyone who’s late will get a cut in their bonus!”
“Do I need to come too?” I asked.
“But surely my bonus won’t get cut if I’m late, right?”
“Do you want to risk it?” threatened Huang Xiaotao, holding up her clenched fist in front of me.Previous Chapter Next Chapter