Netherworld Investigator

Chapter 14

Chapter 14

“Dali!” I called out. When he walked in, I told him, “I need you to get me some things. I need a towel, some hot water, a pail, some ropes, an iron plate, an electric hob, white vinegar and some ginger.”

“What about cumin and spicy noodle?” Dali asked.

“What the hell for?”

“It sounds like you’re going to have a hotpot meal. Cumin and spicy noodle go really well with a hotpot meal, you know?”

I burst out laughing.

“Just hurry up and go get those things, will you?”

“But the money…” said Dali, staring at me.

“Don’t worry,” said Huang Xiaotao. “I’ll pay you back the money once the case is over. Just remember to keep the receipts.”

“Oh, one more thing!” I said. “Aren’t there a few pots of succulent plants in our dorm? Can you bring one of those with you as well?”

“Geez, dude,” said Dali, “I know the atmosphere here is a bit gloomy, but do you think succulent plants are enough to liven up the mood?”

“Just shut up and go, won’t you?” I said, waving my hand.

“Yes, sir!” he said, and ran out the door.

I searched through the clothes on the dead body and found an ID card, a student card, some change, some keys, a cell phone and half a pack of cigarettes. The name on the documents were all Deng Chao. I tried to access the cell phone but found that it was locked with a password. Huang Xiaotao ordered a few bags to put all the evidence in.

I stood up and looked around. The music room was actually quite spacious. There was a podium in front of the room, and beside it, there was a wooden piano that looked out a window facing the south. All of the windows in this room were opened. Because the building was built quite some time ago, there was no air conditioning. Instead, fans were installed on the ceiling.

“Where did the head of the body go?” I wondered aloud while staring at that headless corpse.

I walked up to the piano and pressed a key. It made no sound at all. It turned out that this was one of those old-fashioned pianos where you had to step on the pedal to make a sound.

“Do you play the piano?” Huang Xiaotao asked, her eyes full of wonder.

“Absolutely not,” I replied.

I swiped my fingers on a string of keys on the piano and discovered that some of them were stuck. I instantly knew that something was wrong.

“Quick!” I said. “Open the lid! Something’s inside the piano!”

The moment the lid was opened, everyone gasped in horror.

Most of the piano wires inside had been cut, and they all tangled up together into a cobweb-like mess, and nestled among that mess was a bloody head and a baseball cap beside it.

I rolled up my sleeves and tried to get the head out, but it was so tangled up with the piano wires that I feared pulling it out would cause damage to the flesh.

Huang Xiaotao ordered someone to get a plier. After a while, one of the police officers managed to get pliers from the security guards on campus. One by one the piano wires were cut and the severed head was finally freed from its tangled prison.

I compared the head to the body, and judging from the wound, they both matched each other. However, strangely enough, the stage of decay was drastically more advanced for the head compared to the body. The skin on the head had even grown slightly moldy, and the flesh had even started to smell putrid.

There was also another bulging wound at the back of the head. When I pressed on it gently, I discovered that the skull beneath the skin was fractured, and the wound was swollen and festering. I pressed on it with slightly more pressure, and white pus flowed out of the wound. Some of it even got onto my hand and it flowed down to my wrist where my skin wasn’t protected by a rubber glove.

“Don’t move!” said Huang Xiaotao as she wiped the pus from my hand with a Kleenex. I thanked her.

“Did you find out anything?” she asked.

“This head and that body belonged to the same person,” I said. “And the head was cut off using a sharp instrument.” I put my nose near the severed head and analyzed the smell. “It seems that some kind of chemical was applied onto this head. The conditions inside the piano is also more conducive to bacterial growth, so the rate of decay had been greatly accelerated. This head is now completely unrecognizable.”

“Is there nothing we can do about that?” Huang Xiaotao asked.

“No, probably not,” I replied. The two girls had stated that they saw a ghost in a white dress playing the piano in this room, and the piano wires were flying all over the room as if they were her hair, and it was one of those piano wires that cut off Deng Chao’s head.

I didn’t believe any of those actually happened, of course. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any point in keeping on investigating the case.

But it was undeniable that the murderer had applied a sort of chemical onto the victim’s head and put it inside the piano. This was most probably done to make it nigh impossible to identify the head.

But the most important part in the case of a headless body was to confirm the identity of the victim. When the head was either missing or badly damaged, the first thing one had to consider was: what was the murderer trying to hide? There had been a number of cases even in Chronicles of Grand Magistrates where the murderers would try to mislead the investigators using this method. In that case, I reckoned the smartest thing to do next was to look into the background of this student named Deng Chao.

“Song Yang,” said Huang Xiaotao, “do you really think that the victim’s head was cut off using a piano wire?”

“The wound was very clean,” I replied, “so all I can say is that it was done using a sharp instrument. As for piano wires, it is indeed possible to use them to produce this kind of result. I remember a case that occurred about ten years ago. The victim would always ride a motorcycle home from work every night. The murderer made use of this knowledge by calculating the exact height of the victim’s neck when riding a motorcycle and then tying a piano wire across the small alley where the victim had to pass by every night. The victim’s head was cut off instantly as he passed through the piano wire, leaving only his headless body on his motorcycle which drove on and crashed into a food stall nearby, scaring the people there senseless. I heard that this case even stumped many experts in the field.”

“You’re talking about the ‘Headless Rider’ case from ten years ago!” said Huang Xiaotao, her face turning pale. “I remember how the police couldn’t solve the case until they invited a mysterious individual to assist them. Wait… this case had never been leaked to the public. How did you know about this?”

“It’s just a story I heard from an old policeman…” I vaguely explained. That mysterious individual who solved the case was, of course, Grandpa.

I examined the head even more thoroughly this time and noticed something strange. The skin and flesh of the head had been cut cleanly and neatly, but there were signs of friction and violent hacking on the vertebrae.

I closed my eyes and readjusted it to Cave Vision, and then re-examined the vertebrae. There were tiny black particles near the bones, and they looked like minuscule metal splinters.

This meant that the skin and flesh were cut by a different instrument than the bones!

At that moment, Dali rushed into the room enthusiastically, his left hand holding a big bag while his right hand was holding a kettle.

“Yo!” he said. “Here’s everything you requested, dude!”

“That’s pretty impressive, dude,” I praised as I opened the bag. “You’ve got everything ready in such a short time.”

“Most of them were pretty easy to find,” said Dali, “except for the iron plate. I had to borrow that from the barbecue stall outside of campus. We’ll have to return it to them once we’re done with—”

Dali paused mid-sentence. His eyes rounded to the size of saucers and his gaze was fixed at the severed head on the floor.

“Wh-Wh-What the actual fuck!” he exclaimed, his face changing from pale white to a sickly green. “Where did that thing come from?!”

“Just get out if you can’t handle it,” I said. “Oh, and bring me a magnet and a piece of white paper too.”

“What?” he grumbled. “Why didn’t you tell me that the first time? Now I have to go back out again…”

“Just treat it as a workout,” I said. “I’ll treat you to a nice meal later.” With that consolation, he was finally willing to go.

Once Dali left the room, I poured the hot water into the pail. I soaked the towel in it for a while, then wrung it out and spread it across the dead body’s chest.

Seeing that I had begun examining the corpse, the other police officers came closer to observe me.

“What are you doing with the towel?” asked Huang Xiaotao.

“Didn’t I tell you that I was going to prove the time of death to you? Just watch.”

Once I’ve softened the corpse’s chest with the hot towel, I flipped it over and spread the hot towel on the back. I repeated this step three times to make sure that the muscle tissues softened, then I used a special technique to continuously poke and jab at the corpse’s back.

Suddenly, the headless body sat up, ‘coughing’ out bits of frozen blood and ice from the gash on the neck. Faced with this sight, all the police officers stepped away in horror!

Tip: You can use left, right, A and D keyboard keys to browse between chapters.