When I thought of how the murderer was right outside the door, possibly with a weapon in his hand, my back was soaked with cold sweat.
I swallowed a lump in my throat and forced myself to think fast. Deng Chao was waiting for me outside the room, so if I popped out my head to check, he would definitely slit my throat with a knife in a heartbeat.
But I couldn’t just stay inside the music room either. It would take him no more than a few steps from the door to get to me before Huang Xiaotao could even get near the room.
The window was open, so I did have a choice of jumping out and escaping, but that would defeat my purpose of capturing him!
So, I put my hand into my pocket and secretly called Huang Xiaotao.
“Please don’t scare me like that, Miss Xia Mo,” I said loudly, pretending to be scared while dialing the phone. “If you don’t like me here, then I’ll leave instantly.”
Then I took two steps forward before circling back to hide behind the piano. If Deng Chao rushed in, I could just shove it towards him to buy me some time.
Just then, Deng Chao appeared at the door. When he saw how I was hiding behind the piano, he laughed.
“Stop pretending, bastard!” he barked.
I could clearly see that he was holding a dagger, and those hands were white and slender, just as I expected.
“Who are you?” I asked, feigning cluelessness. “Why are you dressed like that?”
“Still not dropping the act?” he asked, then he began to walk towards me. “Where is that letter?”
“The letter said…” I stepped to the other side of the piano. “… that you’re the real killer.”
“I shouldn’t have trusted Zhang Kai!” he snapped. “And here I was regretting killing the bastard!”
He took another step towards me. I was bathing in cold sweat by then, and my heart almost jumped out of my throat.
“You only have yourself to blame,” I said. “If you didn’t kill him, the letter wouldn’t have found its way into my hands.”
“Stop blabbering! Give me the letter now!”
“The letter’s not with me,” I told him. “I gave it to the police a long time ago.”
“Fuck you! You tricked me!”
Deng Chao rushed towards me, but a few milliseconds before he reached me Huang Xiao kicked open the door while holding a gun with both of her hands and pointing it straight at Deng Chao.
“Freeze!” she roared with an authoritative voice. “Drop down your weapon!”
Deng Chao’s jaw dropped. But he soon regained his senses, he rushed towards me. He must be planning to take me as a hostage! I ran to the back of the music room, but he was on my heels. Huang Xiaotao shot her gun, and the deafening bang echoed throughout the building.
Nothing was hit by that shot. Police officers would usually shoot blanks the first time, just as a warning. But the loud bang of the shot did have an effect, because it frightened Deng Chao so much that he bolted out the door. He was in such a hurried state that his wig and costume fell off his body.
Huang Xiaotao followed him out the door and into the hallway. I followed them too. Although the end of the hallway was a dead end, there were classrooms on both sides — Deng Chao could easily sneak into one of them and hide there.
We lost sight of Deng Chao. Huang Xiaotao called told me to catch up to her then she kicked open the door of a classroom and pointed her gun into it while I scanned the room.
“He’s not here.”
We checked three rooms without success, then I suddenly heard the sound of someone opening the window.
“Quick!” I exclaimed. “He’s going to jump out of a window!”
We hurried to a classroom where the sound came from, and saw Deng Chao standing at the window about to jump out.
Huang Xiaotao stood very still and held up her gun with both hands aiming at Deng Chao, ready to shoot.
Right at that moment, Deng Chao shouted and fell from the window.
“Please don’t kill me! Please don’t kill me!” he pleaded.
Huang Xiaotao immediately rushed forward. She kicked the knife in Deng Chao’s hand away, pulled his hands behind his back and handcuffed him.
“You’re right, Song Yang,” she said. “He really did have a hand surgery.”
I let out a long sigh. My whole body felt as if I was made of jelly.
Only then did Dali run in from the hallway.
“Whoa, that’s awesome!” he said. “You guys caught him so quickly! Let me see what this bastard looks like.”
Once he got near us, Huang Xiaotao gave his leg a nice kick. Dali yelped in pain and hopped on one leg.
“Were you tying your shoelace at a crucial moment again? You’re as useless as a pig!”
“But it’s not my fault that my shoelaces needed tying again,” said Dali. “Dude, help me convince her.”
I said nothing but just gave him a look.
Huang Xiaotao made a call to the director so that Deng Chao would be taken into custody.
“So, you’re Deng Chao, huh?” chided Dali, trying to fill the dead air. “You’re pretty impressive, you know? You killed two people, then you dress up as a ghost to scare us. But, alas, you’re not as impressive as our Song Yang here, right dude?”
No one paid any attention to him, so he started laughing awkwardly. Deng Chao stared at me with piercing eyes and asked, “Where exactly is Zhang Kai’s letter?”
“It’s fake,” I told him. “I thought you’d gotten it by now. I used it to lure you here.”
“That’s impossible!” he objected. “It was clearly in Zhang Kai’s handwriting! I used an ingenious method to kill them! If there was no letter, there’s no way you would’ve figured out that I did it!”
As it turned out, Deng Chao really believed that he was the smartest person on earth, that no one could be better than him, so he never doubted that the letter was real — and that was his downfall.
“I faked the letter using the lecture notes I found in his room,” I said. “If you think that no one can see through your murder scheme, then I’m sorry to say that you’re wrong. You’ve met your match.”
Deng Chao suddenly burst into laughter. That cold laughter rang through the hallway, and it sent shivers down my spine.
“I will always remember you, Song Yang,” he said. “I lost this time. I truly lost. You are a worthy opponent.”
“That’s enough,” ordered Huang Xiaotao. “Now walk.”
“Wait,” I stopped them. “Did you say that you lost?”
“What do you think?” he scoffed. “Do I look like I’m winning right now?”
“There is no victory here,” I replied. “Because it’s not a game. You murdered two people. Two young men lost their lives and their families will mourn their deaths for the rest of their lives. How can you speak of winning and losing so casually?”
“But it is a game in my eyes!” he said with a creepy smile. “It’s a match of guts and brains!”
“You really are a sociopath,” remarked Huang Xiaotao. “There’s no saving a monster like you.”
We escorted him out of the building, and not long after a police car arrived and took him away.
“Case closed!” Huang Xiaotao proclaimed. “I’ll treat you guys to a nice meal later.”
“Awesome!” said Dali, dancing with joy. “Let’s go out and celebrate with lots of beer! If we don’t get wasted tonight then—"
Huang Xiaotao glared at him, and Dali immediately shut up and left the rest of his sentence unsaid. He hung his head low, in fear that Huang Xiaotao might still be mad at him for his absence earlier.
I too felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. But then we heard what sounded like a wailing sound coming from behind the old building. When I listened to it closely, it turned out to be the howl of the wind.
“By the way,” Huang Xiaotao said, “what did Deng Chao see just now that scared him so much? Did he really see Miss Xia Mo?”
Dali immediately shivered, then hugged his arms close to his body.
“Xiaotao-jiejie! Don’t scare me like that!”
I looked around the hallway and found a portrait of Hellen Keller hanging on the wall. When the window was opened, it was at the perfect angle where the light from the window would be reflected on the glass surface of the framed portrait and then into Deng Chao’s eyes.
I smiled. So that was what Deng Chao saw.
“Yes, he saw a ghost,” I said, “a ghost called guilt and remorse!”