The first victim, Yan Qilin, was a high school graduate at the time. She was shy and introverted. She usually liked to read books alone. After the murder, the police investigated three people.
The first was Xiao Ran, a classmate and best friend of the deceased. The two had known each other since they first met during military training in their first year of senior high, and they had been inseparable ever since. Xiao Ran had found a diary when she was sorting out the victim’s belongings. She took the initiative to give it to the police. The diary mentioned that the deceased and Xiao Ran had fallen in love with the same boy at the same time, but afterwards Xiao Ran removed herself from the situation of her own volition. For this reason, the deceased often felt like she owed Xiao Ran and treated her doubly well.
Judging from the narration in the diary and Xiao Ran's own confession, this matter wouldn’t have developed to the point where it was a motive for murder. Furthermore, Xiao Ran had an alibi. She was dating another boy at the time of the murder.
The second one was Zhang Jinlei, the boy whom the victim had a crush on. He was also a classmate. After graduating, the two of them formally became a couple and applied to the same university. At that time, it was summer vacation in their senior year of high school, so no one except Xiao Ran knew about their relationship.
Perhaps Yan Qilin's death dealt Zhang Jinlei a huge blow. For a time, he seemed very negative and threatened to avenge Yan Qilin. He fought a boy named Yue Chao, almost ending up with a criminal record.
At the time of the murder, the deceased was originally planning to meet Zhang Jinlei near Wuyi Road. He had waited a long time and was unable to reach her over the phone.
Although Zhang Jinlei had been standing alone at the intersection and he didn’t have an alibi; through various investigations, the police ruled him out as a suspect.
The third was Yue Chao, who was also a classmate of the deceased. But due to certain reasons, he didn’t take the college entrance examination. He had dropped out in the second half of his senior year.
Zhang Jinlei said that he had seen Yue Chao sexually harassing the deceased, but Yue Chao said he had a sibling-like relationship with the deceased and that occasional disagreements were normal. He claimed that Zhang Jinlei was just overly sensitive, and had misunderstood.
The deceased often went to have fun at Yue Chao’s workplace and it seemed like the two of them had a good relationship.
Similarly, Yue Chao also had a convincing alibi, so the police ruled him out as well.
After reading the thick record of statements, Chen Shi asked, "Where is the deceased's diary?"
"It is stored in the evidence room. I know what you’re thinking. The diary isn’t forged. It’s indeed the diary of the deceased. We checked the whole book and there were no traces of a page being torn out. Besides, Zhang Jinlei has also seen the diary before."
"Why did Yue Chao drop out? A high school student who dropped out in their senior year must have made a big mistake."
"According to his teachers and classmates in the school, this student has always been notorious for his misdeeds. The specific reason for dropping out is not very clear, but the police involved in the investigation said that it wasn’t related to the deceased and was an independent matter."
Chen Shi stared at the fluorescent lights in a daze.
Lin Dongxue said, "In fact, when the first murder occurred, those three people, the deceased’s classmates and teachers were all visited countless times. The idea that an acquaintance had committed the crime was ruled out. As similar cases continued to happen, the police classified it as a serial killing."
"However, wasn’t there no progress after investigating it as a serial killing? Where’s your brother and the rest of them?"
"Is there a case?"
"No, Captain Lin had already asked for some police reinforcements from various jurisdictions and police stations a few days ago to step up patrols tonight. Although it’s kind of like finding a needle in a haystack, what if they run into the murderer in a massive stroke of luck?”
Chen Shi smiled. "It seems that this case has tortured you guys a lot."
"Truly. Everyone gets really tense whenever it’s Qixi... Do you think he’ll commit a crime again this year?"
"Since the criminal pattern is clear, after not getting caught in the past six years, I think that this murderer would have formed a certain mental mindset and will definitely commit a crime again this year."
Lin Dongxue sighed. "How helpless we are! We have to wait for the corpse of a girl to be delivered here again tomorrow."
"I’ve gotten hungry. Let’s go out and eat!"
They had been busy with the case all day and hadn’t eaten dinner yet. Thus, the two of them went outside and ordered a bunch of skewers. Chen Shi pondered as he was eating and it could be seen that his brain was running at full speed, so Lin Dongxue didn’t bother him.
Chen Shi suddenly said, "Thinking carefully, these cases do differ."
"What's the difference?"
"From the second case onwards, the victims were killed elsewhere, and then thrown in some remote place. Only in the first case was the victim killed on the spot... Have you considered that the next five cases could all be copycat crimes?"
"We have considered that, but this case hasn’t been made public. Some details, especially the string of numbers and letters written on the arms of the deceased, wouldn’t be known to outsiders."
"True..." Chen Shi picked up a lamb skewer frustratedly, but his eyes were drawn to an approaching flashing light. It was the siren on a police car.
Lin Dongxue had also noticed it. There must be a problem if a police car was returning to the bureau with the siren still on. The two called the boss over at the same time and smiled at each other. Chen Shi said, "Check please! We’ll have the food as takeaway!"
They hurried back to the bureau and saw a man being taken out of the police car, as well as a girl who seemed to be drunk.
The girl had been acting drunk the whole way and said to Xu Xiaodong who was holding her, "Handsome, what’s your number? Why won't you talk?" This put Xu Xiaodong in a bind.
Lin Dongxue asked Lin Qiupu, "What did this person do?"
"We met them while patrolling. They were acting suspiciously."
The man shouted, "Are you guys crazy? I'm on a date with my girlfriend. What did you arrest me for?!"
"Let’s talk after we go in!"
"You’re all crazy! I want to sue you."
Lin Dongxue looked at the man who seemed a bit familiar, but she couldn't remember where she had seen him before.
After finding out the man's name, she was so surprised that she was gobsmacked. He was actually Yue Chao, one of the people related to the first homicide.
After six years, he was now 25 years old and working for a company that sells health products.
When the police were patrolling that night, they passed the place where the first murder had occurred that year. A housing district had already been built there. Yue Chao and the drunk girl had been sneaking around inside. When he saw the police, he had dragged the girl and ran away. He was immediately stopped.
Then the police found a red dress and a bag of salt in the bag that he was carrying.
Such a reason made the police even more suspicious of him.
The drunk girl was taken to the office to sober up and Yue Chao was taken into the interrogation room. He was very impatient and kept shaking his legs. He kept asking the police for cigarettes. Lin Qiupu only entered the interrogation room after ten minutes. He sat across from him and said, "After six years, we meet again. Tell us why you were arrested this time!"
Yue Chao sneered. "How would I know why you arrested me?"
"What's with this red dress?"
"I bought it for my girlfriend!"
"What about this pack of salt?"
"I bought it for cooking. Did I break the law?"
Lin Qiupu smiled grimly, "It’s indeed not illegal, but Yan Qilin was killed six years ago, and a girl has been killed in the same way every year on Qixi. You’re a person pertinent to the Yan Qilin case. You know better than I do what these two things mean when put together!”
1. Although it reads as “Xiao”, it’s not the same as “Little” in this case.
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