It was troublesome for the police officers to verify the people in the footage. They could only query everyone they came across within the housing district. Chen Shi and Lin Dongxue’s job wasn’t interesting either. They examined the grass carefully along the fence and stopped from time to time to bend the fence with their hands to see whether any part could be easily broken.
The most time-consuming part of the investigation were all the different kinds of interference. Seeing the police walking around in the housing district, the residents asked them numerous questions. They couldn’t make any progress. At noon, Chen Shi sent out a message. “Let’s stop for now. Let’s go to the small restaurant outside the housing district to have a meal!"
The weather was really hot. The police were drinking cold drinks to relieve themselves from heatstroke. Lin Dongxue fanned herself with a fan. "I don't need to worry about gaining weight these days. I’ve lost a few pounds just from sweating."
"That’s a good thing!" Chen Shi said.
"Good my ass. My hands have gotten tanned."
Old Zhang said, "I found the dog-walking uncle who appeared in the footage. He’s a resident of the housing district and doesn’t seem suspicious."
Another policeman said, "The aunt in the green blouse was also found, and she’s not suspicious either."
"There was also a food delivery person. I found him and confirmed that there was no reason for suspicion."
Chen Shi consulted his notebook. "It's progressing well. There’s only one person left. The man in black."
Lin Dongxue said, "I think that ‘he’ is more likely to be the murderer."
Old Zhang said, "Cross-dressing props could have been inside of the box. After killing the guy, the box was thrown away and he came out empty-handed."
"Old Zhang, do you know what your words mean?"
Old Zhang froze for a moment. After all, he had a lot of work experience. He immediately smiled. "It means that we have to go through the trash in the afternoon!"
Everyone bewailed the chore. Chen Shi said, "There’s no need to check the trash. The garbage gets collected every morning in that neighborhood. The garbage on the day of the incident may be long gone, but I noticed that there are scavengers nearby. If there really was a full set of women's clothing in the box, as well as a leather bag and high heels. The scavengers would most likely have picked them up. Let’s go over and try our luck!"
After eating, everyone went to wait at the garbage dumps around the neighborhood. When they saw old people picking up bottles, they asked if they had noticed a big box. The other parties said no. Chen Shi asked Xu Xiaodong to send a screenshot of the video and he studied it on his phone. "Look, it's a white square box. It's quite big. What could it be holding?"
"Wedding dress?" Lin Dongxue blurted out.
"If I was the murderer and was going to cross-dress as a woman to commit the murder, would I put everything in such a big, conspicuous box? Could it be holding something else? A square box… It was the deceased’s birthday that day..."
At this time, a policeman called and said that a resident had just said that there was a scavenger nearby who was sent to the hospital yesterday for food poisoning. He still hadn’t recovered.
"Where does he live?"
"At a salvage center just outside the housing community."
Chen Shi said to Lin Dongxue, "Let’s go and take a look."
The two went to the salvage center and saw a woman stepping on cans. Lin Dongxue showed her badge and said, "I heard that someone suffered food poisoning here yesterday. Do you know anything about it?"
The woman said, "Ah, police? My husband and son were poisoned. I was persuading them at the time not to eat this kind of thing with unknown origins. My husband said it didn't matter. He ate it with my son and got poisoned. I cried all night!”
"Cake? Was it a birthday cake?"
"I don't know. The words on it were all blurry. It was a big cake, chocolate flavored... Look, this is the box."
The woman took out a flattened waxed cardboard carton printed with the trademark of a well-known cake shop out of a pile of paper. When they opened it, there were still traces of cream and chocolate shavings in it. Chen Shi asked, "What about the cake?"
"I threw it away. I told them not to eat the things they picked up. Haii, but they just don’t listen.”
"Look, there are words printed on the box." Lin Dongxue said. "This word is ‘sheng’. This word is ‘le’... Happy Birthday! There are two other characters above as well, but they can't be made out clearly!"
"The name of the deceased has three characters. If there’s two, it shows that he was addressed intimately."
"The shape of the characters doesn’t seem like it... These two words seem to be the same and the strokes are relatively simple." Chen Shi stared at the jam pattern reflected on the inside of the box and tried to write it on his hand. He suddenly smiled. "I understand. It’s ‘Happy Birthday, Elder Brother’"
Lin Dongxue also tried writing it on the palm of her hand. "That's right!"
Chen Shi asked the woman, "Were there candles on the cake?"
"Yes, they were the numbered kind. There was a 0 and a 3. My son lit them up and played with them."
The two knew who they should go to immediately. They had just said goodbye, but Chen Shi ran back to ask, "Ah, yes, what are the symptoms that your husband and son are suffering from?"
"It’s just constant diarrhea causing them to be really weak.”
Chen Shi and Lin Dongxue drove to the deceased’s parents’ house. The husband was discussing informing their relatives about the news. The wife was still immersed in her loss. Seeing that Chen Shi had arrived, the husband asked with concern, "Is there any progress with the case?"
"We are currently investigating. We’ve come over because there are things that we want to know."
"We also have a favor we’d like to ask... That is, we’re preparing for the funeral..."
Upon hearing this wording, his wife cried loudly again. Affected by his wife, the husband's voice choked as well. He continued, "The most painful thing in the world is having the white-haired see off the black-haired. We hope that Yuwen can get buried peacefully. So, his... Can his body be..."
Chen Shi said, "The autopsy has been completed. I will speak to the bureau later and send him directly to the funeral hall!"
"Okay, okay, thank you..." The husband wept again. "Oh, yes. What would you like to know?"
"Is Yuqiang at home?"
"He’s in his room. When he heard that something had happened to his brother, he didn't eat for the whole day... If you’d like to know anything, you can just ask us."
"No, some things are better understood by people of the same age. Can you call him out?"
Song Yuqiang was called out. He was thinner and taller than Song Yuwen but otherwise strongly resembled his brother. When he saw the police, his eyes showed caution. Chen Shi immediately knew that this kid had something to hide.
Chen Shi asked, "We would like to have a few words with you. Is it convenient for you to take a little walk with us?”
"Can't it be said here?" Song Yuqiang furrowed his brows.
"Your parents are here. I’m afraid they will be sad when we mention your brother."
Song Yuqiang reluctantly agreed and the three went downstairs. Chen Shi stopped and turned to stare at Song Yuqiang in the eyes. "We just need to ask you one thing. Why did you go to your brother’s house on the day he was killed? What did you do?"
Song Yuqiang was shocked. "What? Do you doubt me? No wonder you wanted to call me down so that you can speak to me alone. I will go back now to tell my dad and let him find a lawyer for me."
"We gave you some face, but you still want to throw it away? Just because you appeared at the scene, we can summon you to the bureau for an interrogation. But your parents are so sad now. If they saw you getting taken away by the police, wouldn’t it be like taking their lives away from them?”
Song Yuqiang glanced upstairs, biting his lip. "Don't frame me. I was playing games at home all night and never went out that night!”
"Really? Would you like for us to go upstairs and verify it with your parents?"
Song Yuqiang panicked. Lin Dongxue said, "We’re not doubting you. We’re just here to investigate the case, because you’re probably the last person who saw your brother."
"I... I'm not the last one to see him..." Song Yuqiang said. "More accurately, I was the first person to see his body!"
1. Certain countries view being pale as being beautiful. China is one of them.
2. Places that give you a few dollars for paper, cans, etc. that scavengers pick up.
3. Both characters make up half of “Happy Birthday”, which is four characters long.
4. Elder Brother can be written with two of the same characters “gege”.
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