This ‘reanimated’ corpse had predictably shocked everyone.
“How did you do that?” asked the stupefied Huang Xiaotao.
“There is death in life, and life in death,” I explained. “Through some special methods, I can recreate a bodily function even in a corpse that had been long dead.”
“Isn’t that… a bit too outlandish?”
“Not at all,” I said. “Unless if a person dies of asphyxiation, a certain volume of air always enters the lungs right before a person dies. What you saw just now might look as if I ‘reanimated’ a dead body, but in fact, it was just that volume of air being pushed out of the lungs.”
I used the tongs to pick up the ice crystals on the floor and held it up near my eyes. There were traces of blood and bits of flesh stuck to the ice crystals.
“How did these ice crystals get into the corpse’s lungs?” Huang Xiaotao asked the question that was on all of the police officers’ minds.
“Because the corpse had been frozen for a period of time,” I explained. “But there are no traces of water on the corpse’s skin, so it can be concluded that the murderer used dry ice or a dry ice machine to freeze the body. This slowed down the rate of decay on the body’s surface significantly, giving the illusion that the time of death was about ten hours ago. But you can’t fake the rate of decay of the inner organs. I used Organ Echolocation to examine the inner organs of the deceased and found that the organs had decayed to a certain degree that puts the time of death at about forty-eight hours ago. And because the body was frozen, the last breath of air in the lungs condensed and froze into these ice crystals.”
Huang Xiaotao stood there silently for a while, then suddenly patted my back.
“You’re impressive, Song Yang!” she exclaimed. “Are you sure you’re not formally trained at all?”
“It’s not the time for chit chat,” I said. “Let’s get back to work.”
I asked a police officer to move a table to the middle of the room and place it upside down, with the legs facing the ceiling. Then, I tied the rope around the legs of the table, forming a simple bed of rope.
Then I put the electric hob in the middle of the table, connected it to a power source, and placed the iron plate on top of it.
“You college students really do lead colorful lives,” said Huang Xiaotao. “You’ve got all kinds of gadgets here. Oh, by the way, what are you going to do with these succulent plants?”
“You’ll know soon enough,” I said. “Now please help me strip the dead body and carry it there.”
Two police officers then took off the pants on the dead body and then carried it onto the bed of ropes. When the nether region of the dead body was exposed, I saw Huang Xiaotao blush and divert her eyes away. I wondered if she had never been in a relationship before.
I opened up the bottle of white vinegar, squeezed the ginger as hard as I could to extract its juices, then dropped the ginger juices into the vinegar bottle. Once the iron plate was hot enough, I poured the vinegar mixture onto it. The mixture sizzled as it touched the iron plate, and the whole room was instantly filled with vinegar steam. The steam stung the nostrils quite a bit, which was why some police officers had to cover their noses and step away from the room.
I continued to pour the vinegar, while my eyesight never left the dead body.
As the room was filled with a thick fog of steam, patches of purplish-red marks began to appear on the dead body. I turned off the heat. As the steam dissipated, everyone there simultaneously gasped!
Numerous handprints could be seen clearly on the dead body. What’s even more interesting was the fact that these handprints looked exactly the same as those that appeared on the hung body when I used the method of Autopsy Umbrella earlier that day!
“Oh my god!” exclaimed Huang Xiaotao. “They’re handprints of a woman! Could the murderer really be the ghost of that pianist girl?”
I smiled a little. These handprints were indeed smaller than the average man’s, and the fingers were quite slender too, but these facts alone did not prove that they belonged to a woman, much less that of a female ghost! I started to wonder how exactly did Huang Xiaotao rise to the rank of first-class superintendent.
“Don’t just stand there!” I said. “Take pictures now!”
“Oh, right. Xiaowang, get me the camera!”
A police officer rushed forward immediately after hearing Huang Xiaotao’s order and they began to take pictures of the handprints.
This technique was called Vinegar Steam, and it was developed by the Great Song Ci himself!
The palms of our hands would always secrete a small amount of sweat, and this sweat is alkali in nature, so when it came in contact with the vinegar steam, handprints would appear. These handprints don’t last very long, though. After a few minutes, they would gradually fade and disappear.
“Aren’t ghosts supposed to be ethereal and non-physical?” asked Huang Xiaotao. “How did this ghost leave a handprint, then?”
“Who told you these were left by a ghost?” I replied. “These were clearly left by the murderer, and I can guarantee you that the murderer was a human being. Didn’t you notice that there are handprints on the thighs of the deceased. Do you know what that means?”
“Handprints on both of the thighs…” Huang Xiaotao considered. “Oh, I know! The murderer was a pervert!”
I almost burst out laughing at her answer. The true meaning of the handprints was a lot simpler.
“No, it means that the murderer dragged the dead body by the thighs to move it.”
“Ah, that makes sense!” said Huang Xiaotao, nodding. “Wait, no, but if you’re right that the time of death was about forty-eight hours ago, yet the two witnesses claimed that they were drinking with Deng Chao last night, does that mean that he was… already dead by that time?”
“The eyes can be deceiving,” I said. “When witness accounts and material evidence don’t agree, I would always trust the material evidence. I don’t think the deceased is Deng Chao. This corpse had been moved here from somewhere else.”
“Why would the murderer do that?” asked Huang Xiaotao.
“It’s too soon to say,” I answered. “But if we keep on investigating, the truth will out one way or another.”
At that moment, Dali ran into the room.
“Dude, I’ve got everything you asked f-f-for…”
He went silent and his eyes were fixed on the corpse, the naked headless body that was on the iron plate, to be precise. Understandably, he was staring at it aghast for a few seconds before he could speak again.
“Well butter up my butt and call me biscuit if you guys don’t start doing more and more ludicrous things while I was gone!” exclaimed Dali. “Holy hell, are you steaming the corpse?”
“Nah,” I said with a shrug, “we were debating whether it’s better to steam it or to fry it.”
Dali immediately shoved the stuff he brought for me into my hands and ran out the door while covering his mouth, trying to resist throwing up right then and there.
Even Huang Xiaotao’s face turned sickly green when she heard my comment.
“Can you not talk about food when we’re examining dead bodies?” she asked. “It’s disgusting! Are you really a college student, by the way? You’re as stoic about this macabre business as a seasoned officer.”
“Sorry about that,” I said. “I just happened to have some training in these matters, so it didn’t affect me much.”
Dali had evidently got the magnet from an audio speaker. I hovered the white sheet of paper over the neck of the corpse and moved the magnet over the paper to collect metal particles from the corpse. Then I turned the paper over and carefully held them with both of my hands and showed them to Huang Xiaotao.
Although the particles were very small, and I could easily lose them all if I sneezed, but because of the stark color contrast with the white paper, anyone could see them with the naked eye.
“These are…” Huang Xiaotao said as she came in closer to examine it.
“They’re tiny metal splinters,” I explained.
Huang Xiaotao looked at me with scrutinizing eyes, then looked at those tiny particles on the paper.
“Unbelievable,” she said. “These things are even smaller than little mites! How did you see them?”
“I eat lots of carrots so my eyesight is excellent!” I said with a laugh.
“Then where did this sharp metal splinter came from? The piano wire?”
I wrapped up the white paper carefully to prevent the precious evidence I obtained from being blown away. Then I picked up a piano wire and showed it to Huang Xiaotao. It was as fine as a human hair, but when observed closely it was clear that it was a metal thread made up of bundles of microscopic metal wires. It was impossible for this type of object to leave sharp metal splinters behind, no matter how you used it.
“What can leave splinters like we saw,” I explained, “would be a saw blade. It is commonly made of iron, and due to the friction caused by sawing motions, metal residues are often left behind.”
“A saw?” asked Huang Xiaotao with widened eyes. “You mean to say that the victim had his head sawed off alive?”
“It’s too soon to make that conclusion,” I said. “By the way, do you have a handkerchief?”
Huang Xiaotao then borrowed a handkerchief from one of the officers and handed it to me. I snapped a piece of the succulent plant from the pot and wrapped the handkerchief around it. I then squeezed out the juice of the succulent plant and used that to apply to the wound on the neck of the corpse.
Gradually, the wound turned purple, and one could clearly see cut marks on the flesh and a different mark of friction that suggested sawing motion on the bones.
“Do you get it now?” I asked. “This proves that the flesh of the victim was sliced off with a knife, but the bones were sawed off with a saw blade!”
“How did you do that?” asked Huang Xiaotao, still stupefied.
“It’s all very simple,” I said. “Succulent plants are very sensitive towards metal, so if I use its juice and apply it to the wound, I can easily see the trace left behind by the sharp metal instrument used to cut the flesh and bones.”
“Song Yang,” she said, “I’ve only known you for an hour, yet I’ve already seen you do half a dozen miraculous and bizarre things that I’ve never seen before ever since I became a police officer. Tell me, who are you really?”
Huang Xiaotao stared piercingly straight into my eyes — the steely determination I saw told me that she would not back down unless she got an answer.