Jiang Zhengkai did not take a lunch break today. Instead, he stayed in his office and staring fixedly at the clock on the opposite wall. Although the digital clock didn’t make any tick-tock sounds like an analog one, Jiang Zhengkai could hear a ticking sound in his head with each movement of the second hand.
At two o'clock, the telephone on Jiang Zhengkai's desk finally rang. "Inspector Jiang! We found it." It was Lu Xiaoqiang's voice. "We found a dead body in the mud by the window of the first murder scene. It is already completely white and decayed. The gender is still undetermined, but from a cursory look, it seems like a female.”
“Is that so?”Jiang Zhengkai let out a long sigh of relief as he had been waiting for the news all morning. Then he sat up straight and calmly instructed, "Xiaoqiang, make sure the scene isn’t disturbed. Has Mu Mingyuan arrived yet?”
"Not yet!" Lu Xiaoqiang answered over the phone. "But I have already notified him. He should be on his way now."
"All right! I'll be right there too." Jiang Zhengkai hung up and left the office in a hurry. On the way, he called A-Jiao and said, "Honey, wait for me at our neighbourhood entrance! I’m coming to get you now.”
"Oh, ok. Did you guys find it?" A-Jiao asked nervously.
“Yes!” Jiang Zhengkai answered bluntly. “Make sure to remember to bring the key with you.”
By the time Jiang Zhengkai and A-Jiao arrived at the exhumation site, Mu Mingyuan was already squatting in the pit and had carefully cleared away the mud on the corpse’s bones. Lu Xiaoqiang and Zhang Nan quickly noticed the two new arrivals standing by the pit and came over. Zhang Nan patted Jiang Zhengkai on the shoulder and asked, "Jiang, you were discharged from the hospital? There’s no problem with your health?”
"I’m fine." Jiang Zhengkai smiled back at Zhang Nan. "How are things here? Is everything going smoothly?"
“It’s going well. Though, we don’t know how long it’s been lying down there.” Zhang Nan pointed towards the pit. “Look! The bones have been bleached completely white with no flesh left at all.”
"It kind of resembles the skeletons on the bed, just without the skin," Lu Xiaoqiang sighed in a low voice from behind Zhang Nan.
"Hey, Look at this, everyone! " Mu Mingyuan straightened his posture inside the pit as he stretched his arms out a bit. Then he suddenly noticed A-Jiao standing at the edge and asked, "Ouch, Old Jiang! You asked Sister-in-law to come here with you? Why? Are you not worried she might get nightmares?”
“Humph! I’d only get nightmares from seeing you." A-Jiao stood by the pit and shot a glance at Mu Mingyuan. Then, she cast her gaze back to the corpse. Could this really be Sister Xiu? Has she really turned into a skeleton? Was she lying quietly here for two whole years? But this corpse looks like it’s already been completely skeletonized. She must have been dead for quite a long time, right?
"How’s the situation down there look?" Jiang Zhengkai asked Mu Mingyuan while pointing to the skeleton in the pit. "It looks like she’s been dead for quite some time, right?"
"That’s right! Looks like it, doesn’t it?" Mu Mingyuan glanced down at the skeleton beside him. "But actually, she hasn’t been dead for very long. No more than three years at most! This is definitely a woman. She was probably injected with excessively saline water or something similar before her death because at the time of her death, her body was severely dehydrated. If buried somewhere else, she might have even been mummified. But this place is so damp that the acidic and alkaline elements in the soil neutralized each other and voila, she ended up like this."
"Is there any way to analyze her identity through DNA or something similar?" Jiang Zhengkai kept asking in a calm manner.
"I’ll try!" Mu Mingyuan scratched his head. "But don't put your hopes on it! Her bones have been completely mineralized. I might not be able to collect a complete DNA sample.”
“Do your best!” Jiang Zhengkai nodded. Then he turned around to look at A-Jiao and gently placed his arm around her shoulders. “How do you feel? Does my work upset you?” He spoke in a mild voice, as if he weren’t talking about work at all. But all this talk about corpses actually reminded A-Jiao of something.
“Oh, yes! That’s right,” A-Jiao answered softly. “That… in that case, let’s go!” A-Jiao turned around and laid her head on Jiang Zhengkai’s chest.
“Ok! Let’s stay just a bit longer. Don’t be scared!” Jiang Zhengkai still responded to her in a gentle tone. His consolations weren’t aimed at easing the anxiety of seeing a corpse; instead, he was relieving the grief from seeing the corpse of a friend
"It’s fine! Just send Sister-in-law home quickly." Mu Mingyuan stood inside the pit and glanced at the two of them. Then he called the remaining police officers to gather around the pit. "Brothers, come down and give me a hand! I’ll see if I can lift her straight out of here." Zhang Nan and Lu Xiaoqiang jumped into the pit and positioned themselves around the skeleton to help Mu Mingyuan move it out. While they were doing so, Jiang Zhengkai left the exhumation site with A-Jiao in his arms.
After they returned to the car, Jiang Zhengkai turned to A-Jiao. He put his hand on her cheek and gently wiped away her tears. "If you want to cry, then cry! There's nobody else here."
"No!" A-Jiao shook her head. "I don't think she would want me to cry." Nonetheless, tears streamed down her cheeks like pearls slipping off of a broken necklace. “Honey, tell me. Do you think that it’s really her? Is that really Sister Xiu?”
"I think so?" Jiang Zhengkai leaned back into the car seat. "A... After all, that’s what she personally told us!”
“Mm! But... But how did she become like that?” A-Jiao cried and turned to Jiang Zhengkai. "Honey, she didn’t look like that before."
"Mm." Jiang Zhengkai wanted to laugh but managed to hold himself back in the end. Yeah! People wouldn’t look like that while they were alive. Only the dead would look like that. Jiang Zhengkai wiped the tears from A-Jiao's face and gently told her, "Do you remember what A-Xiu said? She said that she wanted to make all the people who hurt her look like her. Now she’s successfully done that."
"Who said so?" A-Jiao’s mouth drooped while she faced Jiang Zhengkai. "There’s still one other person!"
"Me?” When Jiang Zhengkai heard that, he rubbed A-Jiao's nose. "But I have you as my lucky star. Surely nothing will happen!"
"Humph! I'm not a lucky star,” A-Jiao said as she pouted. "You also lost my Buddha pendant. I want you to compensate me!"
"Oh, that’s true!" Jiang Zhengkai fumbled his hand under his shirt and felt the area below his neck. After confirming that the pendant on the chain had indeed disappeared, he looked at A-Jiao apologetically. “It must have been very precious, right? I'll buy you a better one as compensation! "
"A better one?" A-Jiao blinked and looked at Jiang Zhengkai. After a while, she giggled and replied, "Okay! Then I'll cremate your head to make a pendant!"
"My head?" Jiang Zhengkai looked at A-Jiao in surprise. "No! So cruel!"
"Yes!" A-Jiao turned around, nodding dramatically. "That pendant is not what you think it is! It's not made of jade at all. It was made from human bones.”
“It’s a bone relic?” Jiang Zhengkai opened his mouth wide in surprise.
"Correct!" A-Jiao turned her head and glanced at Jiang Zhengkai. "It's not a common relic either. My mother gave it to me as a gift when I was a child. She said that it was made from the skull of a Tibetan Buddhist monk.
"Is that so? Then I won’t be able to compensate for your loss." Jiang Zhengkai shrugged, expressing his inability to do anything about it.
"Nevermind that!" A-Jiao leaned forward and rapped Jiang Zhengkai’s head with her hand. "Remember! Your head is mine. If you disobey me in the future, you’ll have to twist it off and give it back to me!"
"Sure, sure!" Jiang Zhengkai nodded repeatedly like a sycophant.
"Now that you are so obedient, that’s good!" Satisfied, A-Jiao sat back in her seat. She pointed her finger in the direction of her home. "Drive, Little Jie! By the way, I want you to carry me home."
"Aye-aye, Empress Dowager," Jiang Zhengkai answered along with a laugh, and then started the car. A-Jiao stared ahead and muttered, "Actually, there's another Buddha statue. It's at my sister's place, though I haven't seen her for a long time. I wonder how she’s doing…...”Previous Chapter Next Chapter