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“Can't you just let me sleep for a bit longer, dude?” he complained. “Why should a college senior like me live like a high school student? I don't wanna go to that meeting!”
“Suit yourself,” I said. “But don't expect to get a share in the bonus!”
Dali suddenly sat up in his bed, “Hey, wait a minute!”
We soon got dressed and called a cab outside the main gate of the college.
“You're both college students, aren't you?” asked the cab driver. “Haven't you heard the news about the dead prost.i.tute last night? I hear she died a really horrible death!”
“How did you know?” Dali asked.
“Haha, you can't beat us cab drivers when it comes to the news,” he said. “Last night, the hotel owner took a cab. He told the driver that the hotel operated without a license, and now that this happened there's nothing he could do but to close it down. Oh, and he said something about a college student invited by the police to help them with the case. He said the kid was cool and good-looking, and that he could quickly notice details that no one else could see…”
“Seriously?” I asked, feigning surprise.
“Can't the police solve the case themselves?” asked Dali. “Why did they need to invite this college student?”
“It sounds like he's no ordinary college kid,” said the driver. “Wasn't there a murder with a headless body in the college recently? I heard that it was this very kid who solved the case. Ah, to think that my son who's probably the same age just spends the whole day playing video games!”
“Mister, you really are up-to-date with your news!” I praised.
“Of course!” he said unironically. “By the way, what are you doing going to the police station so early in the morning? You're not helping the police solve a case, aren't you?”
“No,” I said. “We've just got some personal business to settle.”
“Hahaha, and I thought that maybe I got lucky and one of you turns out to be that detective kid!” he said. “If that happened, I would've given you a free ride! Hahaha!”
Soon we arrived at the police station, and as we were paying the fare for the cab, Huang Xiaotao walked out of the parking lot and saw us. She greeted us, “Hey, Song Yang! Dali! You're on time! The meeting is on the third floor!”
The driver's eyes widened. He pointed at me and said, “So you really are the detective kid?”
“Yup,” I said with a smile.
“By the way, didn't you say you were gonna give us a free ride?”
“What are you guys talking about?” asked Huang Xiaotao.
When turned back to the cab, all we saw was dust and car exhaust, as the cab driver had sped away as fast as he could. Dali tried to chase him but it was too late.
“Come back!” shouted Dali. “You greedy, dishonest sc.u.m!”
“Did he trick you or something?” Huang Xiaotao asked. “I can help you call the traffic division and drag him back here!”
“No, no,” I said. “It's nothing. We were only joking around.”
“Have you eaten breakfast?” she asked.
“Nope!” I shook my head.
Huang Xiaotao pulled out her phone and dialed a number.
“h.e.l.lo? Yes, two more sets of the same breakfast, please. The same address, yes, third floor conference room.”
“Xiaotao-jiejie!” Dali cried, full of joy, “Are you buying everyone breakfast?”
Huang Xiaotao smiled.
“You all stayed up very late last night, and you had to come so early today, so you need a good hearty breakfast to restore your energy. We humans tend to get moody and irrational when we don't sleep and eat well. I can't help with your sleep, so the least I can do is to make sure you eat well!”
“That is wise and experienced of you,” I said.
“I learnt it all from my master,” she replied.
We arrived at the conference room on the third floor. It wasn't eight o'clock yet, but there was already a group of police officers sitting around chatting casually to each other. My impression of the criminal division was of police officers seriously discussing cases. In reality, it was different. Police officers were human beings too, and they had mundane things to talk and chat about, like their kids or new television shows. Only w.a.n.g Yuanchao sat there in the corner all alone with a cigarette in his mouth.
Dali elbowed me and said, “Looks like our Mr. Drill Sergeant doesn't fit in much.”
“Maybe he likes sitting alone!” I said.
After a while, the food arrived. A deliveryman came in carrying two huge bags full of food. Huang Xiaotao announced to the room that anyone who hadn't had breakfast yet could go and get the food. The atmosphere instantly brightened up. Some people even cheered.
The food was almost luxurious. There were soy milk, fried dough, shrimp fritters, pot stickers and more. Huang Xiaotao cleared her throat and said, “Okay, now that everyone's here, let's summarize all the clues we've got.”
She pulled out a whiteboard full of photos and wrote down all the keywords on the board. Then, she explained everything point by point. These were, of course, everything that I already knew.
Once that was done, she asked, “Does anyone have anything to add?”
“I've checked the ID card of the cleaner,” reported a police officer, “and it turns out to be a counterfeit. Some criminals who have faked ID cards in Nanjiang City are specialized in this. The ident.i.ties used in the faked IDs are usually taken from uneducated farmers in rural villages, and this particular ID is no different.”
“I called the relatives of the victim, Ma Lizhen,” said another officer. “She had not been in contact with her family for many years. The family didn't even know what she was doing in Nanjiang City, much less anything to do with her disappearance and death!"
“I went to the Ministry of Communications early this morning,” said another officer, “and transferred the surveillance camera at the intersection of the hotel. The man who photographed the suspected murderer left the hotel at 8 a.m. on October 4th, but the image was very unclear and the face was blurred.”
Huang Xiaotao then a.s.signed new tasks, and the forensics team a.n.a.lyzed the video last night to see if they could unearth new clues. Other police officers went to major hospitals to investigate a middle-aged man with a history of stroke and to find anyone who had close relations.h.i.+ps with the victim Ma Lizhen.
After she finished speaking, she turned to me and said, “Song Yang, do you have anything to say?”
“I suggest to check if there are any patients with external protein allergies in Nanjiang City,” I said. “This is a very rare genetic disease that may be related to the murderer.”
Everyone whispered among themselves after hearing what I said.
“External protein allergy?” asked Huang Xiaotao. “What is this disease? I've never heard of it before.”
I explained that people with this disease are not able to absorb certain types of proteins and they would often suffer extreme allergic reactions. A more common example was allergies to peanuts, in which case eating peanuts could even be life-threatening.
I speculated that the murderer suffered from this disease, that his body rejected most forms of protein in everyday food, except for blood. The body had also undergone some changes due to the long-term shortage of protein, such as fear of the sun, pale skin, and hairlessness.
“But if you can't eat food, then how does this person survive? asked Huang Xiaotao.
“By sucking blood.” I said plainly.
“Dude,” whispered Dali, “didn't you sleep with me last night? When did you find this information?”
“What do you mean sleeping with you?!” I yelled. “I couldn't go to sleep because I kept thinking about the case last night, so I climbed out of bed and flipped through my past reading notes. Fortunately, I found something out, otherwise I'd be having insomnia all night.”
“Then how many hours did you get to sleep?” asked Dali.
“Not more than two hours.” Honestly, I was a little sleepy when I was sitting there. My eyelids felt heavy and I couldn't wait for the meeting to be over so I could find a place to lie down and sleep. Previous Chapter Next Chapter