Chapter 25: Jin Xi’s Grief
“He could be a psychopath now. This means that as long as he desires, this whole city will be his hunting ground.”
After Bai Jin Xi finishes her sentence, everybody is in dead silence.
She’s also stunned herself.
It’s a strange feeling. When she was at Guanhu Station before, she obviously couldn’t possibly have dealt with a serial killer case. Then why does this all feel so familiar to her after speaking about it just now: nervousness, coldness, and a hint of……excitement.
It’s as if, this isn’t the first time she’s like this.
There’s no time for her to think deeper because an investigator has brought the neighbour living across from Chen Xi Xian over. She and Xiao Zhuan immediately go over.
The neighbour is a housewife in her thirties. She’s standing outside the door of where the incident happened, looking pale.
“We don’t have much contact with the young fellow across from us. We’ve bumped into him a few times in the hallway though. He always had his earphones on by himself, and didn’t like to talk to others,” she says, “but you could tell that he didn’t work, and stayed home all day. His garbage was all piled up outside the door. The janitor scolded him every time. Miss Officer, did he get killed by a gang member?”
Jin Xi asks, “Why do you think that?”
She answers, “A lot of these youngsters take drugs. I heard it from Mrs. Zhao upstairs that he was beaten up by two gang members in the courtyard area one time. He supposedly didn’t pay for the ecstasy pills. The people taking drugs are so bold these days.”
“Does he have any relatives or friends?”
The housewife thinks for a moment, and then sighs, “I’ve never seen any relatives, but he had a girlfriend before who came often. She was quite kind, and there wasn’t garbage piled up outside of the apartment during that time. She seemed quite nice. But nice people don’t live long. I heard that the girl died in a car accident, and this fellow was burning a lot of paper money in the courtyard during those few days, and was scolded by the security guards. Sigh……the girl’s gone and now the guy’s gone too. Those who do drugs don’t have a good end in life!”
After sending off the housewife, Xiao Zhuan says, “Chen Xi Xian was a scum. His girlfriend died, and he got killed by someone. Do you think that the killer targeted him, thinking that there was no need for Chen Xi Xian to continue living?”
Jin Xi pauses her footsteps. Xiao Zhuan’s words seem to make some sense.
She pats his shoulder, “You’ve improved! But it’s still too early to conclude. Let’s take a look at the other victim first.”
Once they walk inside, they see Han Chen and the other three standing at the window with a bullet hole in it. Chatterbox is feeling his pockets left and right and finally finds……a measuring instrument.
Jin Xi and Xiao Zhuan are both stunned from such an ancient piece of equipment. But Chatterbox squats with a straight face and starts measuring the bullet hole with the instrument.
Jin Xi walks to Han Chen and asks softly, “Will that do?”
“You think that I would hire someone useless?” He stares at the bullet hole while tightening his right glove with his left hand.
If he doesn’t hire useless people, it means that he only hires top experts? Jin Xi’s mouth curves up, but then she hears him say, “It’s only criminal psychology that we don’t have an expert in.”
Jin Xi: “……”
Chatterbox wipes the sweat on his forehead and stands up, “The bullet did not penetrate through the window from directly across. It came through at a 50.3 degree angle, which means……” he points diagonally to the right with his finger, “the bullet came from that direction. And from that direction, only that building is ideal for a sniper to be effective.”
Everyone looks to the direction of where he’s pointing. It’s an eighteen story building that’s about one to two hundred meters away. There are other buildings around it of various height; all are rather old and condensed. There are also some shanty towns in the area.
Chatterbox continues, “And the bullet is 13.8 degrees from level, the distance between the two buildings is 155 meters, and the height of each apartment is about 3 to 5 meters in these buildings, so the bullet is from……”
“The rooftop.” Han Chen turns around and rushes outside.
Cold Face follows him immediately. Chatterbox is struck dumb for a second before he follows after them, but doesn’t forget to remind everyone, “My super detective’s brain is just so damn fast.”
Jin Xi bumps Xiao Zhuan’s arm, “King of exams, how come you weren’t able to calculate this?”
Xiao Zhuan says, “I didn’t get a chance to take out a measuring instrument……”
Although the apartments are not new, they’re located in the center of the city, so the area is more prosperous and crowed. Just from walking through the area, they can see the street parking and parking lots parked with many cars. Some cars are even parked in an unauthorized manner. But at the time of the incident just an hour ago, could the killer have been hidden in one of these parked vehicles? Stepping out of his darkness and into the lives of normal people, preparing to start his hunting?
Once they make it to the rooftop, they see the mark.
A red capitalized “T” has been painted on the side of a wall on the rooftop. And it happens to face the victim’s building.
Chatterbox immediately rushes over. He takes out a dial caliper with his left hand and a micrometer with his right and starts measuring.
The others follow. Cold Face squats beside the wall. He rubs the ground lightly with his gloved hand, and looks up at Han Chen, “There are dusts everywhere except here, which has been cleaned very thoroughly by someone.”
Han Chen nods.
Chatterbox adds, “The angle is just right. This is the place where the shot came from. Holy, he even left a ‘T’ at the shooting place. Xiao Bai Mei (little girl Bai), hurry and analyze this. What was he thinking?”
Bai Jin Xi glares at him, “You think that I have supernatural powers? What can a ‘T’ say about the person. Maybe it’s not ‘T’ that he wants to express, but a nail instead?”
Although she says this, she examines the “T” closely. At first glance, the colour is like blood, stinging her eyes. It’s also facing in the direction of victim Chen. It feels as if……
……the killer has nailed this mark onto the dead body.
She lifts her head and sees that Han Chen is walking slowly around the borders of the rooftop; he’s looking down so she’s not sure what he’s doing. Chatterbox is still fooling around on the spot. Cold Face suddenly turns around and walks forward and towards the right. One step, two steps, three steps…..he then squats. A bunch of things are piled in front of him, and he starts searching through them.
Jin Xi watches them and suddenly feels a surge of excitement in her heart.
Han Chen is right; they are all top experts.
Therefore, she also squats where she is with her chin resting in her palms as she concentrates on her thoughts.
“Found it,” Cold Face suddenly stands up. His face is actually showing a rare hint of smile as he holds up something in his hand, “Bullet shell.”
Han Chen walks over, takes a look, smiles, and pats his shoulder.
Having found the bullet shell means that they can use professional equipment to analyze and find out more details of the gun. Xiao Zhuan immediately takes out an evidence bag and puts the bullet shell inside. He looks at Cold Face with admiration, “Cold Face, how did you know that the bullet shell would be hidden here?”
Cold Face has already become immuned to this nickname so he doesn’t show any reactions. He looks up in the sky and answers, “There is no wind today. When shots are taken with this sniper rifle model, the bullet shells usually fly towards the right. The distance in which it falls can be predicted.”
Xiao Zhuan, “Oh……”
Han Chen reaches out his hand to Xiao Zhuan, “Pen, paper.”
Xiao Zhuan fetches a notebook and ballpoint pen quickly from his bag and hands it to him. Han Chen rips a page out and throws the notebook back to him. He walks to the edge of the rooftop.
Jin Xi has been watching him, so seeing him move out, she goes over.
“What are you doing?”
His fingers are fair white and slender to begin with, they look even prettier holding a pen. He doesn’t look at her until he finishes drawing a few curved lines, “You don’t get it?”
“That’s normal,” he throws the pen to her and turns his head, “Cold Face.”
The one who is being called upon by his nickname walks over calmly. Han Chen hands the paper to him.
“Go down on the staircase to the 8th floor, and then jump to the top of that building from the balcony. I don’t need to tell you the route from there, and you should know,” he says.
Xiao Zhuan and Chatterbox hover over. Cold Face takes a good look at the drawing in his hand, and reveals a slight smile, “This is the killer’s escape route.”
“Mm,” Han Chen tilts his head and lights up a cigarette. He breathes out a light smoke ring, “Take a run. Xiao Zhuan, record the time. Let’s have someone record the time as well at the end point.”
Cold Face takes off his jacket calmly, tosses it to Chatterbox, and warms up on the spot, leaving the rest of them dumbstruck.
How did he……draw out the escape route just like that?
Two minutes later.
They stand on the rooftop watching Cold Face sprint like a cheetah across the top of several lower level buildings; Jin Xi and the other three are amazed.
Chatterbox speaks out first, “Leader, how did you draw out the escape route? How did you know that the killer must have ran this way?”
With the cigarette held between his black gloved fingers, Han Chen inhales from it, and answers, “The sniper rifle is big, so the killer definitely wouldn’t have walked around while carrying it on his back. That would have sparked other people’s attention. He must be driving a car and usually has the gun hidden in it.”
All three of them nod their heads.
“He wouldn’t have parked his car at a parking lot because there are cameras there. He would have parked it on the side of the streets,” he says.
Xiao Zhuan interrupts, “There are a lot of cars parked in unauthorized zones, so he could have probably found a good place to park his car without it being noticed.”
Han Chen and Bai Jin Xi say at the same time.
Their eyes meet, and Jin Xi explains, “A calm and experienced criminal would never park his/her car in an unauthorized manner when they’re committing a crime. It’s because if he/she gets caught by a traffic cop, it would be like he/she is giving him/herself into the hands of the police. Furthermore, this is a professional killer, so there’s no way that he/she would make such a simple mistake.”
Xiao Zhuan and Chatterbox both say “Oh.”
Han Chen continues, “I’ve taken a look at the map on our way here. There are five roads nearby with street parking available. One of them is just below this building, but the killer would definitely not have parked there because it’s within our search area.” He semi-closes his eyes, takes a smoke, and looks to the front, “The route that Cold Face is running on is the shortest path that leads to one of the parking areas. The other paths are too far, making him/her leave behind more evidence, so he/she would definitely not choose any of them.”
Chatterbox is already full of admiration and doesn’t ask anymore questions. Xiao Zhuan quickly writes down all the main points that Han Chen has given. Jin Xi blinks her eyes and asks, “How do you know that the route you’ve drawn is the shortest one?”
Han Chen rests one of his arms on the railing while tapping his cigarette with his other hand, “Chatterbox, how do you make a direction idiot understand roads?”
Chatterbox and Xiao Zhuan giggle. Jin Xi makes a “hmph!” sound, and turns to look to the side.
Han Chen glances at her slightly blushing face, and smiles.
“Therefore……” Chatterbox continues with Han Chen’s speculation, “The time of the gunshot is very clear, so as long as we can estimate the time the killer took to escape, search the area of the road, and review the security camera footages nearby around that time, the killer’s car must be among them! This will shrink our search area by a lot!”
“Mm,” Han Chen hums with the cigarette in his mouth.
Xiao Zhuan is too excited to say anything. He mumbles, “We’ll be close to solving the case then. This is too fast, too fast.”
“Not necessarily,” Han Chen comments, “It just means that we’ve found the car.”
Even with that said, Xiao Zhuan and Chatterbox are still full of smiles.
Jin Xi has mixed feelings towards this; she’s happy, yet surprised. As she stares at his side profile and his distinctive facial features, she also feels like respecting him a bit more now.
Han Chen catches her by surprise as he suddenly turns his head towards her, “Get ready.”
Jin Xi asks, “What for?”
“You’re running next. I’ll take you,” he says, “We’re short on time, so it’s too hard to find another female officer with your athletic skills. I’ve taken a look just now, and the distances that require you to jump down from aren’t too high, so you should be alright.”
They both take off their jackets and stretch their arms and legs. Xiao Zhuan and Chatterbox understand the reason behind this. Xiao Zhuan nods, “Leader sure pays attention to details! The killer could be a woman, so that’s why we need Xiao Bai to take a run. But since she’s bad with directions, Leader is guiding her himself.”
Jin Xi didn’t think much of it before, but now that she hears him call Han Chen leader, she can’t help but look at him with an awkward smile, “Xiao Zhuan, new clothes are not as good as the old ones, while old members are not as good as new ones.”
Xiao Zhuan doesn’t understand and shows a blank face.
But someone gives Jin Xi a slap on the back of her head.
“Don’t mind so much,” he pulls off his gloves and throws them to Xiao Zhuan.
He says it in a deep and relaxed voice with a perfect Beijing accent, and a hint of arrogance. Jin Xi feels sweetness inside for some reason; his words are quite effective on her.
They stand on the edge of the rooftop beside the painted “T”. Jin Xi is carrying Xiao Zhuan’s bag which has a couple of bricks inside to imitate the weight of a sniper rifle. Cold Face was carrying this during his run.
Han Chen turns to her, “Be careful on your way. Follow me. Don’t look down.”
Xiao Zhuan waves his arm, and Han Chen sprints forward; he has already disappeared from the stairs in a blink of an eye. Jin Xi follows him in a dash.
There is an additional door on the 8th floor that leads to a spacious platform. It’s already 2 to 3pm, and the sun is shining brightly. The instant that Jin Xi raises her head, she sees Han Chen press his hands against the edge of the balcony and jumping down; his black shadow disappears in the next second.
Luckily, the balcony and the top of the other building is just beside each other and is only about a meter difference in height. Jin Xi stops at the edge of the balcony, closes her eyes, and jumps down.
She reaches out and presses her hands on the ground right when she lands, and sees that Han Chen has already made it to the other side of the building and is going down the stairs. Seeing that she’s fine, he turns his head and disappears.
Jin Xi is suddenly struck dumb.
She doesn’t know why her mind has suddenly gone blank just now. She quickly clears her head and continues chasing after him.
Once they go down to the fifth floor, there’s a hallway that leads to the top of another building. There are many buildings in the 90’s that are like this. Jin Xi runs along the hallway and sees that Han Chen is going down the stairs of the rooftop.
Jin Xi is suddenly stunned.
His face is very clear under the sun. He places one of his hands on the railing as he looks downwards. His short black hair rests on his forehead, and his side profile is prominent.
He turns around to look at her.
And then turns his head back and starts going down.
The sun is above their heads. Jin Xi looks down and sees his shadow disappear from the rooftop while hers chases closely after it. The prosperous city surrounding them endlessly is empty and quiet.
At this very moment, she feels as if her heart is being squeezed.
Fiercely, without warning, and completely unprepared.
There’s an indescribable pain spreading from her heart at an instant; like blood rushing through her whole body.
Jin Xi halts her footsteps.
But in the next second, she immediately realizes that she is currently working on a case, so she quickly starts running again.
But when she lifts her head again, tears are flowing from her eyes.
What’s going on?
Why does the imagery of her and Han Chen running and chasing gives her a familiar feeling?
Why does her chest feel tremendous pressure making her almost unable to breathe?
Why are tears flowing from her eyes uncontrollably, just like when she was unable to stop crying in her dreams?
Her consciousness is helping her maintain her speed. Perhaps because the rest of the path is rather easy, so Han Chen has increased the distance between them and hasn’t notice anything strange about her.
Her eyes are completely blurry. They leap from one rooftop to another; they jump over one barrier after another. Although she’s running on the path right now, it feels as if she’s in another setting.
Similarly in the other setting, a calm and athletic man is running in the front while she is following him close behind. Their shadows are just like how they are now; following and chasing one another to reach the same goal.
There is no one else in this world that can replace what they mean to each other.
Jin Xi can’t run any further.
She slowly comes to a stop, buries her face in her palms, and squats down.
The man in her dreams.
Did he once sprint with her like this?
Did he often turn his head to check that she was fine too?
Did he chase after the same aspirations and goals with her? Justice, fairness, a criminal investigator’s responsibilities, and their unforgettable love?
Why can’t she remember any of it?
What is his name? Zhao something? She can’t even remember his name anymore, yet he has already gotten married and has kids with another woman. Then why does she still feel a strong burning sensation deep down inside regarding this relationship which she has forgotten? And why is it that whenever it is summoned by the tiniest clue, she can feel it hurting all over her body?
She lowers her head, watching big drops of tears fall to the ground.
Until a pair of black running shoes appear in front of her.
She is pulled up by the arm with force. When she raises her head, she sees Han Chen.
His forehead is still covered with sweat, his t-shirt is stuck to his chest, and his palm is full of heat. He grasps her arm with one hand and cups her face with the other; his slightly calloused fingertip wiping away her tears; a little rough, and hurting a little bit.
His deep and dark eyes are staring at her.
“What’s the matter?”
Jin Xi turns her face to the side and avoids his hand, “Nothing. I suddenly just don’t feel well. Sorry. You’ll need to find another female officer to complete the trial.”
She wants to push his hand away, but he holds on even tighter.
Jin Xi takes a deep breath, looks up, and reveals an embarrassed smile, “I took a look down just now, so I got scared of the height. My emotions are a bit out of control……” Her explanation makes sense because many people with fear of heights would lose control of their emotions when they’re being forced to the limit.
Han Chen examines her face, and then releases his hand slowly.
They keep quiet.
“I was too careless,” he says suddenly, “to let you run. I originally hoped that you could overcome your fear of heights. I’ll ask them to find another officer. Wipe your tears, and follow me down.”
His deep voice actually carries a hint of gentleness.
Jin Xi feels her nose burning again. She wipes her eyes quickly, “It’s not your fault. I will try harder next time.”
Jin Xi’s eyes are still swollen on their ride back. Everyone in the car has sharp eyes, but even Chatterbox knows better than to ask.
They’re riding in a seven passenger SUV; Xiao Zhuan and Jin Xi are sitting in the last row. He nudges her arm, and asks softly, “What’s wrong?”
“I’ll tell you after we go back.”
This proves that when a man has an unfriendly face, people around him don’t dare to talk to him.
Cold Face is driving, while Han Chen is in the passenger seat. His arm is resting on the car window as he smokes and look outside.
The whole ride is quiet.
The other victim’s name is Zheng Cheng Zhi.
He was killed yesterday at noon; his body has been sent for autopsy. The scene of the crime has been kept as is. The Black Shield Team arrives and hears the wife crying her lungs out, saying that the killer must have killed her husband out of jealousy and demands the police to catch the killer.
Zheng Cheng Zhi was forty-two years old, jobless, and was doing odd jobs. Due to his old home being taken down, he was compensated with two apartments, so he was able to manage his daily living expenses.
“Besides yourself, did Zheng Cheng Zhi have any other close relatives?” Xiao Zhuan asks.
His wife replies still choking with tears, “He has a younger brother who works in Shanghai. He won’t be here until tomorrow.”
“How about his friends?”
She says angrily, “He has many good for nothing friends. They smoke, drink, and gamble a lot. Mister Officer, you must investigate them.” She starts crying again, “Now that it’s only me and my child left, what are we going to do?!”
Xiao Zhuan nods, but knows very well that her husband was not killed by one of these people.
Han Chen takes Chatterbox and Cold Face with him to examine the place, while Jin Xi visits the neighbours on the upper and lower floors.
The apartment below is occupied by an old lady in her seventies. Jin Xi is invited inside after she tells her the reason for her coming.
“Sigh, Miss Officer, why would a perfectly fine person be shot and killed just like that?” the old lady sighs, “Guns are heavily regulated, aren’t they? Cheng Zhi must have provoked some gang members to end up like this, didn’t he?”
Jin Xi answers gently, “We can’t conclude yet. Grandma (polite to address an elderly woman), you must have been living here for a long time. What kind of a person is Zheng Cheng Zhi? Does anyone hold a grudge on him, or has a conflict with him? We are asking because we also want to solve the case quickly.”
The Old Lady nods, “I understand.” She looks at Jin Xi and her expression becomes a bit unreadable, “This Cheng Zhi……He was a good kid and was filial. But after he grew up, he couldn’t find a good job. He got married, and slowly changed. He was forty and didn’t have proper work to do. He and his brother’s dad died early, and their mom and I watched them grow up……”
The Old Lady shakes her head. Her eyes are watery, “His mom passed away last month. She worked hard her whole life to raise these brothers, but died in pain. Just like me, she’s old and useless. She slipped and fell down the stairs. Sigh…..”
Jin Xi keeps quiet for a moment, caresses the Old Lady’s back, and asks, “How do the brothers usually treat their mom? Are they filial? Caring?”
The Old Lady pauses for a few seconds, and answers, “The younger brother, Cheng Da, works outside of the city, but I hear that he usually mails some money back during holidays and new years. Cheng Zhi was kind-hearted, but it was his personality. He smoked and drank all day, so he didn’t have time for his mom. And to add to that, he married that kind of a woman. His old mom was quite pitiful……”
When Jin Xi goes back to Zheng’s home, Zheng Cheng Zhi’s wife has already left. After the incident, she and her son have been staying elsewhere for the past few days.
She walks in and sees that they have already finished examining the place and are standing in the living room. They look her way as she enters.
Jin Xi’s gaze meet with Han Chen’s, and she quickly shifts away.
“Jin Xi,” he says, “What are your findings?”
Jin Xi feels warmth inside her heart.
Even though he looks down on criminal psychology, the truth is, regardless of whether it’s the Chen Li Jiang case or this current case……
He listens to her.
She has calmed down her emotions now; realizing that the they have all showcased their special skills today except for her.
Smiling slightly, she walks to the middle of the group, and reaches out her hand towards Han Chen, “Give me a cigarette first.”
Chatterbox butts in, “Xiao Bai, you’re being such a big shot.”
Han Chen scans her face, reaches into his pocket, fetches a cigarette, and tosses it to her. Jin Xi takes it, but she doesn’t light it because they’re at a crime scene right now; she puts it across her nose and sniffs it, and then starts spinning it between her fingers.
“He is a young man between the ages of 25 to 35. His looks are ordinary.
He keeps a low profile, lives in a rented apartment located in a mid-range area in the city, and drives an average vehicle. However, there’s no way to tell the diameter of where he lives in because distance is not a limitation to a professional killer.
Being a killer is not his full-time job. He most likely works in the technical field such as an IT technician, an instrument repairer, or a home renovation inspector.”
She lowers her hand and puts the cigarette into her mouth, “He’s very lonely inside. He’s single, has no woman, and has no real friends. But in the past three months, he must have experienced a big emotional impact. He has a very, very deep relationship with someone. Perhaps it’s love, or something else, that has been ruined by others. And those who ruined it are ordinary people like these two who are deceased.
A highly skilled man who walks on the edge in the dark and disregards life, yet the weakest and most fragile beings in this world have ruined the happiness that that belonged to him. Therefore, he has come to their world and has begun to kill them one by one.”
Chapter 25: Jin Xi’s Grief