The Corpse Hopped at Midnight: Part One

This is my first attempt at writing crime fiction. The title is sort of my homage to my favourite television series, "Murder, She Wrote", as well as a reference to the Chinese version of the vampire, geong si. Third place winner in The Vampire Diaries competition (2016)

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3. Chapter Two

The usual smell of copious amounts of blood that was starting to congeal never bothered me anymore, but something about it this time that set me on edge.

‘Do we know who he is yet?’  I asked Lam.

‘Yes,’ he replied, consulted his notepad.  ‘Wan, Yeung.  He works at a publishing company.  The neighbour identified him.’

The pathologist chose that moment to arrive, along with his assistant who trailed after him like a dog would his master.  Dr Hu, Bing-Men, was someone I had a great deal of time for.  He had been advised against becoming a medical doctor when he had still been a student because his bedside manner was apparently atrocious.  But he had an impeccable reputation in his field so he was often called in to the hospital to consult on cases.  He was a sort of squat man with a pale complexion from spending so much time in the morgue, and he always had a sort of squinting expression, probably from looking through telescopes and peering at corpses of violent crime victims.

‘What can you tell me?’ I asked him.

‘Give me a chance, Cheung!  I’ve only just stepped through the door!’ the good doctor gruffly protested.  He set his equipment down beside the bed, and bent over the body.  He glanced at the wall and side table.   ‘Judging by the amount of blood on the wall, the ceiling and the bed, I would say with almost absolute certainty that he died of blood loss,’ he quoted my thoughts almost word for word; another reason that we got on so well.  ‘But I’d have to get him back to the morgue to be one hundred percent certain.’

I nodded understandingly.

‘Well, this is interesting,’ he commented, suddenly.

‘What is?’

‘It’s these gashes,’ he pointed.  ‘They appear to have been made randomly and yet at the same time they seem to be clustered around certain areas.  Almost like…’

‘Like what?’

Dr Hu made no reply.

‘Do you know what caused the gashes?

‘My guess is something like big claws or a somewhat blunt knife,’ he replied.  ‘But I’ll need to take the body back to the morgue and examine him more thoroughly.’

Of course, I sighed to myself.

My knees creaked as I stood up straight again.

I strode back to the living room, carefully avoiding the Scene of Crime investigators.  I was just stepping over to the dining table to take a closer look at it just as Lam was coming back in from interviewing the neighbour.

From I saw when I glimpsed of him, the neighbour would have been more interested in whatever computer game he was playing than whatever was going on in the same room, much less next door.  He was tubby with thick glasses and dressed in baggy jeans, a white tank and a chequered flannelette over shirt; the stereotypical gamer nerd.

‘I just spoke to the neighbour.  He was up most of the night having an all-night gaming marathon with some of his friends online.  He didn’t hear very much, because he had his gaming headphones over his ears. But he did hear a very loud yell at about midnight.  He couldn’t tell whether it was male or female, on account of the games music.  Didn’t really think much about it since he had often heard shouts from the victim’s apartment before, usually when he had a woman over.’

‘So the victim was definitely had company.  What was his opinion of his neighbour?’ I asked.

‘“An all right fellow, but could get rather loud when he had one of his lady friends over”,’ he read from his notebook.
 I wonder…could this be a crime of passion?  No, it couldn’t be.  There was definitely something…cold about all this.
 ‘We’re finished, detective.’

I jumped.  Hu’s assistant, Ip, Man, had managed to creep up behind me.  I hate it when he does that; even though I know he’s not doing it deliberately.  He was small, though not as small as Dr Hu, but something about him made me think of a cat.

Hu came up behind him, his loud stomps a stark contrast to the quiet footfalls of his assistant.  ‘We’ll be taking him to the morgue now.’

I nodded.  There was nothing that we could learn from the corpse right now.   Hu quickly commandeered one of the scene of crime investigators to help with moving the body into a bag, and now they were carrying it out into the hallway.

I really had no idea how they were going to manoeuvre the body into the elevator.  Would it even fit in the elevator? I wondered.  It would only have just enough room for four people.

I turned to Lam and asked, ‘Let’s have a look around, shall we?’

He nodded and we each snapped on a pair of plastic gloves and started on opposite sides of the living room.

A nose around in the bag I spotted earlier turned up his company identity card, a wallet still full of cash and credit cards, his mobile phone and a small umbrella.  The presence of his valuables meant that we could definitely rule out robbery.

The phone was a relatively new one; an iPhone if I wasn’t mistaken.  I could never keep up with all these new-fangled devices; far too complicated.  I was more than happy with my beaten up Nokia flip phone.

A quick perusal of the phone’s call history showed that he made many calls to two numbers, another mobile phone number and a landline, which were never returned.

‘Sir,’ I heard Lam call.

‘What is it?’ I asked, looking up from the screen.

‘Sir, I found this behind the settee,’ he informed me as he strode up tome with a picture frame in his hand.

It was a photograph of the victim with a young woman a little younger than him.  Both of them were smiling, but something about the victim’s eyes in the photograph made me uneasy.  And the way he had his arm around the girl, like she was an object rather than a person.

Looking at the girl, I could see that she was a Eurasian.  She was slim with long dark brown hair that fell about her shoulders, and a fair complexion that contrasted with the victim’s tan.  But the feature that caught his attention was her deep blue eyes.  Though her mouth was smiling in the photograph, her eyes were not.  It was like she was holding herself back.

‘Could she be the victim’s girlfriend, do you think?’ Lam asked.

‘Possibly,’ I replied, snapping a quick photo with my mobile phone.

Our search did not reveal anything else other than the victim had expensive tastes, though we did find some more photographs of the girl from the frame in the victim’s bedside drawer.

I sighed to myself as Lam and I waited for the lift again.  I was not looking to the next step; finding the victim’s next of kin and then informing them of the victim’s death.

 

A quick search through records on the victim back at the police station revealed that he was the youngest of three children; he had an older brother and an older sister.  His father had passed away nearly three years ago, but his mother was still living.

Lam and I agreed to visit the mother, and then interview the brother and sister separately at the police station.
 Wan tai-tai  lived in an older apartment block in Wanchai.  Several glassy skyscrapers towered behind it, making the apartments look shabbier than they actually were.

We rang the bell and waited.

Informing the next of kin that their loved one was dead is one of the things I hate about my job.  Not because of the crying and hysterics, but because it’s one of my greatest fears that one day the grieving parent will be me or my wife.  If something ever happened to our son, I don’t know what I would do.

I was saved from my melancholy thoughts by the door opening.  A woman in her late fifties peered out through the metal gate  that in front of her door.

‘Wan tai-tai?’ I asked.

‘Yes, who are you?’ she asked.

Lam and I pulled out our badges.  ‘Detective Inspector Cheung and Sergeant Lam, Hong Kong Police.’

‘The police?’ she gasped.  ‘What has happened?’

‘May we come in?’

She quickly unlocked the gate, and Lam and I squeezed through the opening.

‘Could I get you both something to drink?’ she asked as she toyed with her wedding ring.

‘No, thank you,’ I replied.

Lam asked for water.

‘Make yourselves comfortable,’ she said, as she shuffled to the kitchen.

I took to look around the room.  It was comfortably furnished with well-used furniture and there were little nick knacks everywhere.  A flat screen television monitor sat on in an oak-coloured media unit with a glass display cabinets on the side nearest the window, and was filled with fancy crockery, glassware and statuettes.  Gifts from friends and relatives, maybe?

Wan tai-tai came out with Lam’s cup of water which she placed in front of him before sitting down herself.  She fidgeted in her seat, as she waited for one of us to speak. 

‘I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your son was found dead in his apartment early this morning,’ I said to her as gently as I could.

‘What?’ she gasped, as her eyes widened.  ‘No,’ she mouthed to herself as she shook her head. Then her face scrunched up and she burst into tears.  ‘Oh, no!’ she wailed.  ‘My baby!  Not my baby!’

This carried on for about five minutes, maybe more before she had calmed down enough for us to talk to her.
She apologised to Lam, who brushed it off good naturedly.

‘We’re very sorry for your loss Wan tai-tai,’ I condoled her.

‘Dó jeh,’ she thanked me before taking a shuddering breath.  Her nose was running so I handed her the box of tissues that was on the coffee table.

‘I’m sorry about this.’  She paused to blow her nose.  ‘I just can’t believe it.  He was always so wild and carefree.  I know my husband and I tried our best to raise him well but maybe we just spoiled him too much.  You never imagine that one day they’d…’  She stopped to cover her mouth before she was wracked by another bout of sobbing.  ‘I’m sorry,’ she apologised hurriedly for the tissue box.

‘I understand,’ I nodded.  ‘I have a son of my own.’

Mrs Wan gave a half-hearted smile before blowing her nose again.

‘There are some questions that we need to ask you,’ I said.

‘Of course,’ she agreed.  ‘Anything to help you find the one who killed my son.’

‘Was your son ever involved in anything…criminal?’ I asked.  I hoped she wouldn’t take it the wrong way.

‘Oh, no! Yeung would never do anything like that!’ Mrs Wan protested adamantly.  ‘He has never been in trouble with the law!  The only drugs he ever took were prescription medicines, and he has never gambled in his life.’

‘What about women?’ Lam asked.  ‘Or men?’

‘My son was not a homosexual!’ she screeched.

Lam’s head jerked back. ‘I-I’m sorry, ma’am, but I h-had to ask,’ he stuttered.

I cleared my throat to break the tension that had sprung up from Lam’s question.  ‘Was Yeung seeing anyone in particular?’ I asked.  The girl in the photograph had to have been special to him in some way for him to have framed one and kept others in his bedside drawer.

‘There was one girl, Lau, Sou-Zing.’ Wan tai-tai replied after a moment’s thought.  ‘When he brought her to meet the family, I thought maybe he was starting to think about settling down.’

‘What else can you tell us about her?’ Lam asked.

‘She’s British.  Her mother is from Hong Kong, so she has family here.  Sou-Zing moved to Hong Kong about a year and a half ago to teach English at a school just over the border Shenzhen.  She teaches in Kowloon now.  I think her English surname was Willow.  I only remember it because the meaning of both her Chinese and English surnames was basically the same.’

‘One more thing, Wan tai-tai.  Did she, by any chance, have black hair?’

Mrs Yang’s forehead puckered.  ‘No, it’s a very dark brown.’

I took out my phone and brought up the image of the photo we had found.

‘Is this her?’ I asked.

Mrs Wan nodded.  ‘Her hair’s a bit longer now, but yes.’

 

 

 

Cultural Notes

Tai-tai is a colloquial term for the title “Mrs”.

Most apartments in Hong Kong have a metal gate outside the door.

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