"It’s not necessarily murder,” remarked Xiaotao. “It may be the same thing as what happened last time. Just people fighting and yelling nonsense.”
Despite that, we couldn’t ignore it, could we? We arrived on the second floor of the foot reflexology center, where a crowd of people surrounded a private room. Xiaotao flashed her badge so these onlookers would step aside.
"Officer, the man’s death has nothing to do with me!" said one woman.
Xiaotao waved her hand, "Let’s have a look first!"
When we entered the private room, we found a man slumped over the sofa, his head tilted aside, his feet still soaking in a wooden bucket filled with hot water. Between his fingers was a lit cigarette.
A closer look revealed this man was Nie Yalong's son.
His pupils were rapidly dilating, his face flushed and the blood vessels in his neck bursting. Driven by an ominous feeling, I attached my ear to his chest. As I expected, his heart had been removed.
This incredible technique was undoubtedly the Blade Master’s work.
Removing the cigarette from the victim’s hand, I put it out in the ashtray. A wisp of smoke floated towards the wall, and a faint reflection appeared.
"Close the door!" I ordered.
Xiaotao closed the door, leaving only three of us in the room. I had a piece of moxa in my pocket used to remove the smell off my clothes after an autopsy. Placing it in the ashtray, I lit the moxa and smoked the wall.
A line of words appeared: Jiangbei Daggers, Protect The People, Condemn The Corrupt!
There were more words written below, which read: Song Yang, you already know the truth, but you still don't want to believe your grandfather is guilty.
These words were visible for a few seconds before slowly disappearing, yet they lingered in my heart. A chill crept up my back.
"Why did he kill this man?" asked Bingxin.
"The Blade Master must know that he privately appropriated the money," Xiaotao pointed out.
"Isn’t he a little too well-informed? We just found out! Could it be..."
The three of us exchanged a look of alarm. The Blade Master was either watching or eavesdropping on us.
“Get the police to deal with this. I’ll stay here and guard the crime scene. You should return to the hotel and search for cameras, bugs and the like in the rooms," instructed Xiaotao.
She called Wang Yuanchao over immediately while Bingxin and I left for the hotel. As soon as I returned, I phoned Song Xingchen. In a matter of seconds, he appeared in the corridor.
"Don't turn on the lights. Search the rooms. There may be surveillance equipment," I explained.
Song Xingchen searched his room, while I searched mine. However, we both found nothing so we moved on to the girls’ room. Since it was almost pitch-black, I told Bingxin to stand at the door.
After searching for a while, I finally found a bug under the couch which I placed in an evidence bag. Song Xingchen and Bingxin entered the room as soon as I turned on the lights. When I shared my findings, Bingxin suggested, "Let’s check the hotel’s cameras."
“Alright,” I nodded.
We pulled up the surveillance videos in the security room, checking for unannounced visitors during the time we were away, but no one had entered or exited the room.
Right then, I received a call from Xiaotao. "Song Yang, there’s a camera just across the murder scene. Wang Yuanchao and I are watching the surveillance video at the moment."
"We’re checking the hotel surveillance as well."
She chuckled, "Looks like we’re on the same page. Unfortunately, the camera didn't catch anything. At the time of the incident, that is, half an hour ago, the camera was suddenly turned. When I checked it earlier, I noticed an indentation much like the camera in front of the nursing home."
"So you’re saying..."
"Yes!" Xiaotao exclaimed before I could finish my sentence.
It seemed that the man Nie Yalong regarded as my grandfather was the Blade Master in disguise. The man was just like a ghost, leaving no trace wherever he went.
As I contemplated, my finger remained on the fast forward button. There were no signs of tampering on the hotel’s surveillance. The camera faced the entire corridor, so if someone did enter our room, they would’ve been caught on camera.
I suddenly had an epiphany, "Who else has been in our room besides us?"
"Housekeeping... and the screenwriter and director!" exclaimed Xiaotao.
"That's right!” I shouted. “The couch where the bug was discovered was the exact spot the director was sitting on. Wait a moment while I investigate the two."
A quick search on the Internet revealed zero information about them. I couldn’t be certain if the film and television company were too obscure or didn't exist at all.
At present, there was a quicker way to confirm. "Let's go to their motel and find out in person."
"Alright, the police have arrived,” reported Xiaotao. “Wang Yuanchao and I will head there immediately!"
The three of us arrived first. While waiting, Song Xingchen picked up a small stone from the flower bed and tossed it so the camera on the telephone pole next to him shifted slightly.
It turned out he was experimenting. Song Xingchen shook his head and sighed, "It's really a challenge! Whoever did this is stronger than I am."
"Why didn't he just break the camera? Isn't that easier? Or is he just showing off?" asked Bingxin.
"He would’ve exposed himself if it was broken,” I chuckled. “He doesn't want to reveal his whereabouts."
Everything about the Blade Master was an unsolved mystery. I turned to Song Xingchen, "Are there any martial arts techniques or weapons that can remove a heart without damaging the skin?"
"As far as I know, no,” refuted Song Xingchen.
Right about then, Xiaotao and Wang Yuanchao arrived. We walked into the motel together and inquired at the front desk. Unfortunately, we were informed that the two men had left today. Glancing at each other in shock, I asked, "Did they use their ID cards? What’s the name they registered with?"
After searching for a considerable amount of time, the receptionist showed us their names–one was Xiao Gang and the other Xiao Lie. Indeed, they had lied about their identities.
"Xiao?" Realization dawned upon me. "They’re descendants of Officer Xiao, here for revenge!"
Xiaotao gritted her teeth, "How daring of them to actually deceive us! We can’t let them leave. We must head to the railway station at once and stop them!"
Outside the motel, we immediately hailed two cabs. On the way there, Bingxin pointed out, "It doesn’t make sense! When the second victim was murdered, they happened to be in our room. They have perfect alibis."
I was also mulling over the same problem, though, at present, I didn't have the answer. However, I was certain this was no coincidence—it was a deliberate attempt to cover up their crime. In fact, manipulating the time of death wasn’t difficult. It could be achieved by manipulating the temperature, bacteria and preservatives. There was definitely trickery involved.
"Let’s round them up first. We can take another look at the crime scene afterwards," I said.Previous Chapter Next Chapter