Chapter 43 Three Graves 06
Even after centuries, places like universities barely change.
Truth be told, Lin Chen didn’t feel much nostalgia towards his alma mater but still, he’d feel sorry if he didn’t drop in for a visit as he was passing by.
The campus was shrouded in the early morning mist.
All was quiet; only the chirping of birds could be heard.
Lin Chen and Xing Conglian walked along the old cobbled path leading into the campus.
At the end of the footpath, there was a row of old buildings from the republic era.
There were many trees by the side of the road that obscured a large part of the scenery.
It gave the place a delicious air of mystique.
“Your principal must not be much of a businessman,” Xing Conglian suddenly said.
He walked under the canopied path with his hands in his pockets.
“Hmm” Lin Chen was in a slight daze from the lovely spring breeze.
For a moment, he couldn’t make out what Xing Conglian was saying.
“A place like this is worth an entrance fee of 20 yuan at the very least,” Xing explained.
Lin Chen was amused, “Oh come on, it’s not that great.”
“Of course it is.
You were educated here, after all.”
Lin Chen raised his head and gazed at his companion.
Xing Conglian’s eyes were downcast; his lashes trembled ever so slightly in the soft breeze.
This gave his gaze an air of warmth and sincerity.
Lin Chen sighed.
It never ceased to amaze him how Xing Conglian could say such corny lines with such candor.
They seem almost matter-of-fact coming from him and the listener could do nothing but sigh.
As Lin Chen was about to reply, the sound of police sirens in the distance pierced through the forest.
It sounded urgent and it seemed to be moving.
From this, he gathered that the police car must’ve been traveling at high speeds.
The two of them exchanged glances.
Lin Chen quickly said, “Don’t blame me.
You’re the one who suggested coming here.”
Xing Conglian helplessly smiled.
Following the sound of the siren, the two arrived by the lake.
In the distance beyond the trees, they spotted a line of bright yellow police tape.
A uniformed officer was darting in and out of the area enclosed by the tape.
At the edge of the forest, a forensic scientist in a white robe was squatting under a banyan tree.
The cafeteria that was nearby had started to prepare breakfast.
The aroma of steamed rice filled the air.
From time to time, students would walk past the taped area and peek at the investigators with a mixture of curiosity and shock on their faces.
A security guard stood at the outer rim of the taped area to dispel any onlookers.
Lin Chen glanced at Xing Conglian.
The pair quickened their pace.
Upon reaching the end of the forest, Xing Conglian saw who the lead investigator was.
It was the Vice-Captain of the Yongchuan Police Department who was going to take over the new files on the Yang Dianfeng case.
Their eyes met.
Both seemed surprised to see each other here.
“Xing, why are you here” Greeted Vice-Captain Jiang.
He is a very easygoing person.
Patting Lin Chen on the shoulder, Xing Conglian introduced his companion, “This is Lin Chen, the new consultant in our department.
He graduated from Yongchuan University.
Since it’s still early today, we thought we’d take a tour around the campus but now that you’re here, I’ll get the files of the case for you later from my car.” Officer Xing’s tone was very polite.
He didn’t ask about the present investigation.
“Ah, the one who is working on the ‘Candy Burglar’ case with you” whispered Jiang, widening his eyes in surprise and poking Xing.
Xing was amused by his secretive reaction, “Yeah, what about it” He then laughed and glanced at Lin Chen.
“You’re a legend! We owe you our gratitude!” Jiang rushed over and shook Lin Chen’s hand excitedly, “Come, come in.”
Lin Chen was used to police officers who are cautious and guarded.
This was the first time he’s met one who is so open and friendly.
He was a bit taken aback, “This is a crime scene.
I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to trespass.”
“Don’t worry about it!” replied Jiang with a wave of his hand.
He raised the police tape and dragged Lin Chen into the enclosed area.
Xing Conglian patted his companion’s shoulder and whispered, “He’s Fang Zhiming’s old colleague.”
Lin Chen nodded as if he just caught an important clue.
Near the lake on the inner side of the forest, there was a Chinese banyan tree with a wide canopy.
The leaves swayed idly from the passing breeze from the lake.
Lin Chen stood under the tree, seeming somewhat surprised.
This banyan tree offered the best view in the hearts of all the Yongchuan alumni.
When he was a student here, everyone loved to sit under this tree to read or enjoy some quiet time with a date.
The temperature in this spot is just right that one could enjoy the breeze from the lake, read a few pages, or whisper sweet nothings into a lover’s ear.
With a thick trunk and a full crown, the tree created a nice, quiet sanctuary underneath– including for the one lying in a ditch underneath the ground.
It was a young man with slightly tanned skin.
As he had been lying there for some time, his clothes had gathered dirt to the point where it was hard to tell what color they originally were.
His legs were outstretched and his arms were folded across his chest.
He had a very ordinary appearance: thick brows, pouty lips, an easily forgettable face.
But anyone who passed by would surely linger their gaze on his face for a while.
Such is what Lin Chen is doing now.
The young man had a serene expression on his face.
It was as if he were lying in a warm, cozy bed instead of the cold, hard dirt ground.
He seemed to be in the midst of a dream so wonderful that he didn’t want to wake from it.
“The deceased is named Li Sa.
He worked in the back office of your university,” Jiang Chao leaned towards Lin Chen and informed him.
He approached the ditch as he spoke.
The forensic scientist was stooping beside the body and performing a preliminary examination.
“So” asked Jiang Chao.
“It’s strange, very strange,” the forensic expert frowned, withdrawing his hand from behind the victim’s neck, “As far as I can tell, there are no external injuries, nor did he seem to be poisoned.”
“Oh!” There was a sparkle in Jiang’s eyes, “At least it’s not a murder then!”
“No external injuries, no sign of foul play… It could just be a usual body dump,” as Jiang said this, he raised his head towards the sky, as if praying to the heavens that this was the case.
“Ho-ho, not so fast, Vice-Captain Jiang.
If he was still breathing when he was being buried, does that still count as a body dump” The scientist coldly countered.
Jiang Chao widened his eyes in disbelief, “What’s the cause of death”
“From my preliminary assessment, it appears to be mechanical asphyxia.”
Mechanical asphyxia refers to the blockage of the airway by some external force resulting in death due to oxygen deprivation.
In other words, the victim died of suffocation.
Jiang Chao seemed incredibly disheartened by this information but the forensic expert pressed on, “There are no visible injuries on the neck of the deceased, which means he didn’t die from choking or strangulation.
I also checked his mouth and nose areas – no visible sign of scrapes or bleeding either.
So it wasn’t asphyxia by throttling, which leaves…”
“Being buried alive,” Lin Chen chimed in.
Jiang sucked in a big gulp of air.
The forensic scientist instantly spun around, “Who are you!”
Xing Conglian rushed over to Lin Chen’s side, “We’re with the Hongjing team.”
“Ah, we’re colleagues, then,” The scientist eyed Lin Chen with some interest, “What do you make of this”
“May I ask the time of death” Lin Chen queried, his gaze landing on the victim’s folded arms.
“The morning of the 12th, around 3 AM.”
“If he was indeed buried alive, there are two possibilities,” Lin Chen paused, then continued, “One, he was pushed into the ground after losing consciousness.
Two, he laid down in this grave himself when he was still alive.”
“And which do you think is the more likely case”
“Well, if it’s the former case, we should be able to detect a large amount of barbiturates in his system.
But if it’s the latter…”
“If it’s the latter, then he wouldn’t be able to dig this ditch, lie down, and then bury himself all on his own.
Did you find any shovels or similar tools on the scene” Lin Chen’s tone began taking on an edge.
“N…nope,” Vice-Captain Jiang blurted out.
Lin Chen stared at the ground and mulled things over for a while.
He then asked the forensic expert, “May I look at his hands”
At that moment, the look of interest in the scientist’s eyes turned into full-blown admiration.
He stood up, handed Lin Chen a pair of disposable rubber gloves, then stepped aside to let his colleague through.
Lin Chen stooped down beside the open grave and took the victim’s wrist in his gloved hand.
While the face of the deceased appeared to be placid beyond belief, his hands betrayed that and showed unspeakable horror.
His fingernails were cracked, both hands were covered in wounds, caked in a mixture of reddish-brown blood stains and dirt.
“Well” Asked the scientist expectantly.
“So here’s what I think,” Lin Chen put the victim’s hands back into their position and took off his gloves.
He was gazing fixedly at the ditch.
“Quit stalling and out with it.”
“This grave, he dug it himself,” Lin Chen slowly said, enunciating every word with chilling clarity.
Everyone on the scene couldn’t help but shiver at his verdict.
An eerie silence hung in the air.
The forensic expert took a long breath, “Young man, that’s some bold conjecture.”
“Can we dig up more of this grave and take a look” Lin Chen interrupted.
He turned around and gestured the approximate opening he had in mind with his hands.
“Isn’t it big enough already” asked the scientist.
“What I meant was, let’s remove the body and dig deeper.”
Shovel by shovel, the dirt came flying out of the open grave rapidly.
Xing Conglian and Lin Chen stood at the edge of the lake, looking out at the banyan tree.
“Did I overstep my role just now” Lin Chen asked after some hesitation.
After all, Xing had warned him to be careful on the Chen family’s turf.
But Xing Conglian merely laughed, “No way, Jiang is not the petty type.
In fact, I was wondering why you appeared so nervous earlier.”
“The situation might be grim,” Lin replied.
The officer who was shoveling under the banyan tree suddenly froze when the dirt was almost at knee-height.
With one hand gripping the handle, he turned around nervously.
Vice-Captain Jiang hurried over and peered into the ditch but he could see nothing unusual except a broken strand of the tree root.
“There’s something underneath,” The officer tossed his shovel aside and crouched down at the edge of the ditch.
He cleared away a thin layer of dirt with his hands, revealing a piece of red cloth.
Xing Conglian and Lin Chen were talking something over when they heard his loud yelp of horror.
With his hands still covered in dirt, he ran over to the pair, his teeth chattering from fright, “There… There’s another person underneath!”