In the interrogation room.
The interrogation had already started.
A desk divided them with a blinding fluorescent light above their head. Captain Cheng took the seat facing Qin Shuyi while Zhao Li sat on his side, transcribing everything they said.
The other people gathered in the adjacent room, witnessing the interrogation through a one-way glass.
Captain Cheng didn’t speak at first. Instead, he observed Qin Shuyi closely.
Before he read the file concerning the flood in 1999, he didn’t suspect this old gentleman. In his estimation, a reclusive old gentleman approaching seventy didn’t have the motive, not to mention the physical capability to murder three burly middle-aged men.
Even though the relevant file confirmed Qin Shuyi’s motive for committing these crimes, Captain Cheng tended to believe he didn’t act alone.
So his initial silence served a useful purpose of putting pressure on him, which might soften him a bit.
Under the glaring light, his most subtle moves and brief involuntary micro-expressions would be magnified, and those were what Captain Cheng was trying to catch.
But he could discern nothing.
Qin Shuyi sat upright without even the slightest movement. His eyes appeared dim, even under the blinding light.
The longer he remained silent, the more he felt the task at hand was not easy. At this moment, Qin Shuyi didn’t look the part of an ordinary old gentleman. He more resembled a highly disciplined soldier who had mastered every move and hidden his weaknesses.
But Captain Cheng had overestimated his opponent. He didn’t know Qin Shuyi felt at ease in a setting like this. After his wife and daughter passed away, he would sit alone like this under a fluorescent light, his mind devoid of thoughts for a whole day.
With Captain Cheng remaining silent, he chose to sit comfortably, thoughtless.
Finally, Captain Cheng spoke.
He started with some basic questions about his name, age and then progressed to deeper questions.
He thought Qin Shuyi would be a hard nut to crack. On the contrary, Qin Shuyi was very cooperative.
After a while, he even reminisced calmly about the past events in the He Village.
He told a moving story vastly different from what was recorded on the file. This story touched a chord within Captain Cheng, but only briefly. Having gone through many horrible crimes in his line of duty, he always tried to remain detached.
He calmly posed a straightforward question, intending to force Qin Shuyi to reveal his thoughts.” So to avenge your wife and daughter, you started to plan the murderers’ demise? How long have you been planning? With these many people as your targets, it must be difficult to carry out your plan alone? So that’s why you found a partner?”
Then he looked at Qin Shuyi in an overbearing manner.
Qin Shuyi’s eyes lost focus for a second, and then he nodded unexpectedly.
Clenching his fists involuntarily, he recalled those maddening days.” I have devised many plans of revenge…..I managed to get a barrel of gasoline. I wanted to pour the gas on their rooftops in the middle of the night and set fire to it. Then my Cui Ping and Nan Na would be avenged.”
“But you didn’t go through with your plan. Why?”
Captain Cheng looked at him closely. Now his eyes were murky with teeth-gritting, fist clenching. His every move was signaling his hatred.
He also noticed a red paper doll in his shirt pocket.
He had seen dolls like this in Block 4, where every household hung these paper dolls called sunny dolls. He always felt there was something weird about these paper dolls. But one more glance, he saw a whole paper head protruding from the pocket, but a moment ago, he could only see a corner of this paper doll.
What’s more, this paper doll appeared to be looking at him.
He thought his eyes must be tired, seeing an illusion like this. Closing his eyes, he tried to focus on the job at hand.
He heard Qin Shuyi answering his question.” I guess I am just not cruel enough. Except for those murderers, there were many children in the village. Some of them had asked my wife for candies. Some of them were the same age as my Nan Nan, others were younger. They were innocent. I just can’t bring myself to do this.”
His lips were trembling, but his dark eyes seemed unable to shed tears.
“So you just abandoned your revenge plan?” Captain Cheng pressed him.
“Of course not. That’s why I chose to follow them like a ghost; that’s the least I can do to make them uncomfortable.”
Qin Shuyi shook his head, and then he seemed to feel something and raised his hand to cover his left chest pocket where the paper doll was.
Captain Cheng followed his motion, but his eyes were suddenly glued to his forearms.
Qin Shuyi’s shriveled arms were covered with dark purple patches. Even without the confirmation of a forensic expert, Captain Cheng was sure what he just saw could only appear on a corpse.
Captain Cheng’s throat suddenly felt dry.
Swallowing hard, he turned to meet Zhao Li’s eyes involuntarily. Horrors were printed all over her face.
In front of Block 4, she had glimpsed those purple patches. At that time, she could tell herself that those patches were just bruises. But now, with him this close and under glaring light, she could no longer deceive herself.
With a chill going down her spine, her eyes were also glued to his arms. The light was so intense that she could see the purple patches and his shrinking muscles. It seemed that only a layer of skin was left; underneath, the muscles were gone.
She withdrew her eyes immediately with her hands trembling.
These sights were impossible to miss, even for those sitting behind the one-way glass screen. Having also been to Block 4, Zhang Peng stared at the old gentleman’s arms with eyes protruding.
Seeming to recall something, he hurriedly went to check the interrogation room surveillance recording.
He rewound the video recording until he seemed to find something scary and dropped his mouse.
Surprised, other colleagues gathered around him.” What’s the matter?”
“Take a look yourself.” Zhang Peng’s voice was a little shaky.
On the computer screen, Zhang Peng played a video clip showing Qin Shuyi sat like a sculpture. With the time running at the corner of the screen, a red paper doll slowly leaned out of his left chest pocket.
In this video clip, the paper doll’s empty eyes seemed to stare at Captain Cheng.
The whole room fell into silence.
“Maybe Qin Shuyi’s movement brought the paper doll out of the pocket.”
Someone swallowed hard and put forward an unconvincing argument.
Zhang Peng tentatively voiced his agreement. Mustering up his courage, he rewound the video clip and played it again in slow motion, trying to find the evidence to back up this argument.
In the video, a vague paper doll’s shape could be seen through the thin pocket cloth. They saw with their own eyes that this red paper doll slowly unfolded itself and extended its head out to glare at Captain Cheng.
The whole process looked like a squatting man slowly rising up.
Someone said.” We had better tell Captain Cheng to suspend the interrogation. This stuff is unbelievable…..”
An old gentleman with death marks and a seemingly alive paper doll. Every aspect of this case was challenging their worldview.
Zhang Peng recalled something Wang Qing said.
Wang Qing said this old gentleman was dead.
At that time, he just dismissed it as impossible. But now…he called
Captain Cheng through the intercom, asking him to pause the interrogation as soon as possible and come out.
With in-ear headphones, Captain Cheng heard Zhang Peng’s trembling voice coming through, suggesting suspending the interrogation. His first reaction was not one of confusion and objection but a sense of relief.
Though he was unwilling to believe it, he had to admit that it was the paper doll who was watching him with an unsettling look.
Pausing the interrogation, he and Zhao Li exited the room.
After leaving the room, they exchanged a look, and without a word, they went directly to the meeting room where Jiang Lan was waiting.