While Wang Qing was making the call, two officers were waiting for him. They were Wang Qing’s childhood friend’s colleague from Caiyang District Criminal Investigation Department. They were now part of the special team assigned to investigate the murder in the Hong Fu Apartment Complex.
The day before yesterday, a vicious murder took place in Hong Fu Apartment Complex. A man was murdered without any witness in the middle of the night at his home. Then the murderer beheaded the victim and hung him upside down with a rope in front of his flat.
After the Criminal Investigation Department took over the case, they went through all the surveillance recordings from the Apartment Complex and surrounding areas but failed to find the suspect. A surveillance recording showed a body hanging from the ceiling suddenly appeared in the middle of the night.
In the previous second, the recording showed nothing before the doorway, but in the next second, the hung body suddenly appeared.
Because of that, the Police suspected that the murderer had hacked into the surveillance system and tampered with the recording.
After the murder took place, the Police were combing through every household in this apartment complex. At the same time, a team was deployed to maintain around-the-clock surveillance on this apartment complex.
Wang Changan and his colleague were on this team, and last evening, they were on their night shift when they went missing. Their shift started normally, maintaining frequent communication with the Police station. But in the early morning, when their shift ended, the morning shift tried to contact them and found them missing.
Wang Qing knew he was missing when he went to deliver something to Wang Changan at noon. He was Wang Changan’s childhood friend, and they shared a flat. Because he aspired to a position in the Criminal Investigation Department, he visited Wang Changan’s office very often and knew Wang Changan’s colleagues well.
Caiyang District was a newly established administration zone. In many aspects, this district lagged behind Hanyang District. For example, no criminal investigation officer in this district was experienced enough to know how to handle a special case like this, and the possibility of supernatural involvement had never crossed their minds. They just thought the murderer was particularly vicious and something terrible might have happened to Wang Changan and his colleague.
But Wang Qing knew his friend’s capability. After he learned the details of this case, he believed this case was very unusual. He then suggested to Captain Cheng in the Criminal Investigation Department that they need to request the assistance of experts in the field of supernatural.
That’s why he made the call to Jiang Lan.
But it was apparent that the Caiyang District Criminal Investigation Department had little faith in his idea. Snuffing his cigarette butt, Captain Cheng said.” I will report this case to the City Police, requesting support from them.”
Wang Qing.” But it might take a long time to go through the normal procedure and wait for support. Wang Changan and his colleague might still be alive and urgently need our help! This apartment complex is very small, and they are two very strong men with remarkable combat skills. How come they went missing without attempting to contact us, and no one heard the sound of their struggle? It is impossible unless the murderer was able to use overwhelming force to subdue them instantly.”
After they went missing, Captain Cheng had led a team to search the apartment complex. Wang Changan’s Police car was still parked there, but occupants were missing, and no traces of struggle were found.
This was indeed extraordinary. But Captain Cheng only thought the murderer was very skilled. On the other hand, what Wang Qing said also made sense to him. Now he had a hesitant look on his face.
Sensing his hesitance, Wang Qing added.” We could request support from the City Police and ask for the assistance of a supernatural expert at the same time. Who knows, the support from the City Police might turn out to be the supernatural expert I suggested. We can’t afford to wait now.”
Pausing only a second, Captain Cheng made a decision.” Fine, when will the expert arrive?”
Checking the time, Wang Qing said.” Any moment now.”
While they were talking, an officer walked in with a grim face.” Captain Cheng, we have another victim.”
The officers in the surveillance team just made a call to report this.
Around 6 pm this afternoon, the beheaded body of a man who lived in Room 601 Block 4 was found hanging upside down before the door of his flat.
When this man’s wife returned from shopping, she found his husband’s headless body hanging in front of the door and passed out.
6pm was usually the liveliest time in this apartment complex, with many people returning from work. Most of the neighbors of Room 601 were at home, but no one knew how the murderer managed to kill the man silently and hung the body without making a sound.
Captain Cheng was gloomy. He knocked the wall forcibly.” Let’s go to the crime scene.”
It was already 7pm when Jiang Lan arrived at the Hong Fu Apartment Complex.
Daylight was longer during summer. When Jiang Lan reached the scene, the sky was still bright. Block 4 was now surrounded by a Police cordon line. Except for many officers on duty, a crowd was gathering around.
Now a light drizzle had started. Most people don’t bother with an umbrella. But when the raindrops touch the face and body, people felt a little chilly.
Jiang Lan found Wang Qing in the crowd. He patted his shoulder.” What happened?”
Wang Qing was surprised by his sudden appearance. He answered.” Another victim. Captain Cheng had gone upstairs with his team.”
He proceeded to describe the new situation and added.” Like the previous victim, the body was beheaded and suddenly appeared in the stairway, hanging from the ceiling.”
Since Wang Qing was not a member of the Criminal Investigation Department, he didn’t follow them to the scene. But what he heard from an officer coming back from the scene sounded extraordinary.
Jiang Lan took a few steps back to observe this building.
Hong Fu Apartment Complex was an old apartment complex. Most of the buildings had only seven floors, and no elevators were installed.
The outer surface of the building had withstood the onslaught of elements for decades, and most of the paint was gone. Under the setting sun, the building had the color of gloomy grey. The window security bars were installed many years ago and became rusty. With nightfall, most of the windows were lit up in gloomy yellow.
Jiang Lan also noticed paper dolls hanging from every window. Under the setting sun and the yellowish glow, these colorful paper dolls appeared very bizarre and a little unsettling.
Jiang Lan asked.” What’s that?”
Glancing at those paper dolls, Wang Qing said.” Sunny DollsTL’s note: In Japan, it is called “Teru teru bōzu“..”
“Sunny Dolls?” Jiang Lan was uncomprehending.
Wang Qing said.” Haven’t you heard about it? It was a traditional handmade doll. Now it has gone out of fashion.”
Sunny dolls are dolls made of paper that Chinese people hang outside the window during rainy days. With a broom in its hands and a lotus hairstyle, it was supposed to have a magical power to bring back sunny days.
“But it hasn’t been raining the past few days. Why does every household in this building still hang it? Jiang Lan felt there was something unusual about these dolls.
Wang Qing wasn’t sure how to answer it.” The residents in Block 4 originally lived in the same village. After the murder happened in their building, every household in this building started to hang sunny dolls outside their windows, claiming these paper dolls could bring good weather and ward off evil spirits and bad luck. I guess it is part of their coping mechanisms to deal with the stress and the terror.”
Jiang Lan scanned those paper dolls. In the beginning, he suspected those paper dolls might have a part in these mysterious deaths. But he still couldn’t find any problems with them despite their weird looks.
Wang Qing asked cautiously.” Anything unusual with them?”
Jiang Lan shook his head.” No, so far I can’t find any problems with them. Where is the victim’s body?”
Wang Qing pointed to the sixth floor.” They haven’t moved it downstairs yet.”
“How about we take a look at the scene?”
Jiang Lan and Wang Qing climbed the stairs to the sixth floor.
Officers from the Criminal Investigation Department crowded the scene.
The headless body had been taken down from the ceiling and covered with a white sheet.
The door of Room 601 was wide open, with many forensic officers combing through the flat.
The victim’s wife and son appeared to have wept. Now they sat beside the body with red-rimmed eyes and blank looks.
When Jiang Lan and Wang Qing reached the sixth floor, the officers happened to be preparing to move the body downstairs.
Seeing Wang Qing brought a young man here, Captain Cheng paused and then furrowed his brow.” Authorized personnel only.”
A thought seemed to strike him at this moment.”Oh, this is the expert you mentioned?”
Jiang Lan nodded.” Jiang Lan, May I see the body?”
Captain Cheng scanned him with a look of suspicion. This man looked so young, mild, and harmless, and didn’t fit the profile of a supernatural expert Wang Qing raved about.
He was a little hesitant, but the man was here, and he couldn’t go back on his words to Wang Qing.” We will bring the body back for an autopsy. You can see the body back in the station.”
“I only need a peek; Autopsy is for the coroner.”
Confirming Captain Cheng didn’t object, Jiang Lan lifted the sheet and took a look. The headless body was laid on a stretcher, with the head missing from the shoulder. The cut was clean and smooth.
“Have you found the head yet?”Jiang Lan asked.
Captain Cheng’s suspicion eased a little after observing his demeanor on the scene. Not everyone could face and examine a headless body with perfect composure.
Captain Cheng couldn’t judge his expertise, but he looked reliable enough now.
He gestured to the officers to move ahead with the body and answered.” Not yet.”
The headless body suddenly appeared in the stairway, and the dripping blood looked fresh, which means the person had just died. But it was extraordinary that the blood didn’t spurt out of his neck. Instead, the blood dripped like a leaking faucet from the neck to a puddle of blood on the ground.
“We believe this is not the scene of the crime.”
While saying this, Captain tried to fumble out a cigarette from his pocket. But he didn’t smoke it but toyed with it to ease his anxiety.
“Besides the mystery of how the murderer managed to smuggle a body this heavy to the sixth floor, we couldn’t figure out how the murderer hung the body upside down without the blood spurting. We had looked everywhere; there are no traces of blood spurting except for a small puddle of blood beside the stretcher.
The neck artery is near the heart. The volume of blood spurting out would be quite shocking after beheading. Normally, it would be near impossible to move a newly decapitated body without the blood leaking out. But here, the scene told an implausible story, that the murderer had managed to move the body to the sixth floor and put a nail to the ceiling to hang the body, soundless and bloodless.
This was the most puzzling part of this murder.
The stairway ceiling had a height of three meters. According to the victim’s relatives, there were no nails on the wall or ceiling before this. Then the nail must be the work of the murderer who nailed it to the ceiling to hang the body. But no one heard the sound of hammering when a nail this thick was put into the ceiling.
This murder defied any attempts to explain it.
Captain Cheng.” I will guard the scene tonight with my colleagues.”
The murderer must be a serial killer. Now they were going through the victims’ social connections to look for any overlaps. To prevent more murders from taking place, Captain Cheng decided to strengthen the security here with him personally in charge.
After a pause, Jiang Lan said.” Please let me join you tonight.”
From the moment he stepped inside this building, he had a strong sense of something unusual. But he just couldn’t put the finger on what exactly was unusual. After all, this place was new to him, and he had very limited information about this case. He decided to stay here for the time being.
|↑1||TL’s note: In Japan, it is called “Teru teru bōzu“.|