Volume 32: Don’t Forget Me
In the office with the lights off, Lin Dongxue touched the laptop with her finger and projected a photo onto the white screen. The photo showed a girl in a bright red dress, with a slender figure. Her hands were crossed under her navel and she wore a calm expression. She was covered in snow-like white powder, especially around the neck. Her blood seeped through the white powder accumulated on her body and spread around, gradually changing from dark red to light red.
"The deceased, Yan Qilin, died at about 10:00PM on August 13th, 2013. The place of death was an empty house scheduled for demolition near Shengli Street. There weren’t security cameras around and there weren’t many streetlights. The people who reported it to the police were a young couple who had stumbled upon the scene. The deceased’s throat had been slashed with a knife from the front and she had died of suffocation. There were signs of violent struggle on the floor. The deceased’s body had been sprinkled with about 500 grams of salt. The amount was equivalent to a big bag that can be found at the supermarket."
Lin Dongxue continued her briefing while advancing through the photos, allowing Chen Shi to see more details.
Chen Shi tapped his fingers on the table and thought about the case. He said, "The deceased looks very peaceful!"
"It may have been arranged to look that way by the murderer after the fact."
Lin Dongxue switched to the next photo, which was a close-up of the deceased’s hand. "There is a string of letters and numbers on the right hand of the deceased. From the direction and the handwriting, it should have been written on her by someone else. As for the meaning, so far nobody knows what it could mean."
Chen Shi read it out. "hp6527963665... I don't understand. Deciphering code is my weakness! Is the second team responsible for this case?"
"In the beginning, the A branch was investigating this case. It was transferred to the head bureau three years ago, and Captain Lin took over."
Chen Shi nodded for them to continue.
The photos projected on the white screen kept changing. Lin Dongxue continued, "In the second case, the deceased, Cai Tingting, died on August 2nd, 2014 sometime around 8:00 to 9:00PM, and was found underneath a bridge south of Limin Road…"
In the photo, the second corpse looked almost exactly the same as the first. The same short hair, slender body, and the age should be about the same as well. She was also wearing a red dress. Her hands were crossed under the navel, and she was covered with salt. The cause of death was also exactly the same. She had the front of her throat slit.
Chen Shi pondered over why the murderer wanted to slash the throats of victims from the front. This method of murder wasn’t very efficient. The people, time and place were ever-changing. It would be very difficult for the murderer to completely follow the previous method of murder, unless this person had serious obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Or, this kind of death held a very strong and special meaning for the murderer.
The photos continued to advance, and a close-up of the deceased's right arm appeared on the white screen, with the same text on it: "hp6527963665…"
Chen Shi told Lin Dongxue to turn back. Lin Dongxue said, "We don't have to. The letters and numbers are exactly the same. In all subsequent murders, the codes written on the hands of the deceased are exactly the same."
"Who was responsible for the investigation in the second case?"
"B branch, because it happened under their jurisdiction."
"The cases weren’t investigated together at the time?"
"Yes, it wasn't until the third case happened on August 20th, 2015, that the head bureau started taking it seriously and asked for the cases to be handed over. It was only then that it was discovered that the dates of all three cases were on Qixi!"
"Eh... A lot of things happen in a year. You guys can’t be blamed for not realizing it."
"Aren’t your words mocking us?"
"No, why should I? Think about what we were doing at this time last year."
"Last year... We hadn’t met each other at this time last year!"
"Yes, see how much has happened this year? Continue!"
Lin Dongxue continued with the slide show. 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. To make an inappropriate analogy, the murderer was as dedicated as Santa Claus. On Qixi, a young girl would be killed using the same method. Their age, height, and weight were all very close. Almost the same type.
Lin Dongxue said, "Last year, the chief said that we must arrest this murderer no matter what. We started taking preventative measures before Qixi, invested a lot of manpower, and also brought in a criminal psychologist. The expert’s profile of the murderer was that he was a male between age 25-35, with stable employment and a family. He has mysophobia and may have one or two childish hobbies. He would have been betrayed by his partner before, and Qixi was a painful day for him. His current partner is possibly working in the service industry... Do you think it sounds probable?"
"It sounds pretty much correct. The average age of the victims was around 23 or 24 years old. The murderer had chosen this specific target, indicating that he was emotionally traumatized at this age. This experience had made his psychological age lower than his peers. The method of killing seems to have the meaning of burial behind it. He always tidies up the corpses cleanly and beautifully. This is probably a kind of compensation. He has complicated feelings for the person who had hurt him, so it should have been a romantic dispute. This person’s long and regular killing cycle shows that he usually doesn’t have any time at his disposal. He can only come out to kill on Qixi, indicating that he’s free on this day. It is reasonable that this expert had concluded that his partner was employed in the service industry. People in the service industry would be very busy on Qixi.” After this long analysis, Chen Shi rested his chin in his hand. "It’s just..."
"This is just a regular psychological portrait. If these cases weren’t done by the same person, this wouldn’t make sense. Or perhaps the murderer is a woman. Although the probability isn’t high, it’s still possible."
"This was obviously done by one person, right?" Lin Dongxue asked.
Chen Shi stared at the photos in a daze. After some time he said, "It’s almost like a ritual. The murderer doesn’t want to leave extra information, but just repeats the homicide continuously. He’s copying the same homicide. Take that string of numbers. If the murderer really wanted to set a puzzle for the police, they should leave different numbers on different victims to let us find out the pattern in them. Wouldn’t that be the normal way to go about it? But this murderer has been writing down the same string of code for six years, like a signature. It’s as if he’s laughing at us since we can't solve it. If the string was his signature, it doesn’t seem too aesthetic. I can't imagine what kind of pleasure he can get from writing it. Nor can I imagine what pleasure the murderer can derive from repeating the same case.”
Lin Dongxue guessed, "Perhaps his character is like that. Every year on Qixi, he goes out to look for prey, and completes a murder as accurately as though on a mission."
"Yes, people's personalities vary greatly, and such people do exist. But since this case has been investigated for so many years, I think that you all would have investigated everything you can."
"Long live the understanding!" Lin Dongxue smiled bitterly. "Yeah, we’ve investigated everything possible, racked our brains, lost sleep and skipped meals, but we never got a lead. The second team all collectively have ‘Qixi phobia’ now. As soon as this festival comes around, it’s like we’re going to be skinned... So I want to hear what the great detective Chen thinks about this."
"Well, I want to see the earliest case."
Lin Dongxue turned on the light and handed a file to Chen Shi. He scanned through it. The victim’s interpersonal relationships were very simple. There were only a few people who were often in contact with her, and the police had already ruled them out as suspects...
1. Tortured miserably.
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