Chapter 63: Savage
It was a surprised to Zhang Chi for the captain to pick him up personally. The details of the case he would learn the next day were even more surprising.
Ji Liang didn’t beat around the bush. “Our case is unsolved, and it’s an important one—— the 529 corpse case. The Ministry of Public Security has especially sent Zhenghai’s composite sketch expert, Zhang Chi to help out. Chief Forensics Expert Little Zheng, please tell us about the victim’s autopsy results.”
The forensics expert began in his methodical manner, “The deceased was found at five am on 5/29 long the middle section of the lower reaches of the Li River. The body was discovered by a morning jogger and reported to police. Based on our examination, the victim’s aorta was punctured by a sharp object. The cause of death was shock brought on by massive blood loss. Due to the fact that the body had been immersed in the water for well over 72 hours, there are clear marks on the corpse from being gnawed on by fish and from being jostled and battered in the river, but the fingerprints were indistinguishable.”
“We collected a list of all the families of missing persons in each district and county in the city and the areas around the river and had them attempt to identify the body, but no one could,” Ji Liang added.
“Was it because the face had become so distorted so that only her clothes were able to be used for identification?” Zhang Chi asked expressionlessly, a sinking feeling in his stomach.
“That’s pretty much it. There were no witnesses, no suspect DNA left behind, and no other clues we could use to confirm the victim’s face or identity. Furthermore, three days later at almost the same location, another female body around the same age appeared.” The forensic expert opened his laptop and arranged two photos for Zhang Chi to look at.
Ji Liang came up behind Zhang Chi and pointed at the victims’ neck in the photo. “Same stab location, same method. Given the secrecy we’ve kept this case under, there’s no way this is a coincidence.”
“So you’ve concluded it’s the same suspect?” Zhang Chi said.
Ji Liang nodded with a solemn expression. “After all, we’ve never had a case like this here before, and two in a row, two deaths. It’s a nasty case that can be a really bad influence. Because of this, the higher-ups are taking this very seriously and have given us a deadline to solve the case.”
“Giving us a deadline to solve the case,” one officer complained, “is really a misunderstanding of how difficult our work here at the ground level is.”
“Were the victims pregnant?” Zhang Chi asked.
“Yes. We collected DNA from the fetuses, but there were no matches in our national DNA database.”
“Are there any other useful clues?”
“We’re can be certain where the bodies were initially disposed of, nor can we even identify the bodies so there’s no way to investigate their background or social connections,” another detective said, shaking his head. “The more we learn the more we aren’t sure what the suspect’s motive was or any suspicious persons. This is an out and out unsolved mystery.”
Ji Liang looked at Zhang Chi with hopeful eyes. “We all hope to solve this case as soon as possible, but it’s a real thorny one. The main reason we invited you here is in the hope that your sketch could help us make some sort of breakthrough to advance the case forward.”
“Of course, if it led to directly capturing the murderer that would be even better,” someone chimed in from a corner of the room, and echoed by everyone else. Everyone had wrinkled, worn-out faces.
Zhang Chi smiled, but didn’t respond. He concentrated on the faces of the corpses on the screen. He frowned, focused, for a time, then said, “Are the bodies still at the station?”
“They were put in the freezer after the autopsy.”
“I’d like to take a look. It will be more objective.” He said frankly, “However, this will be my first time drawing a sketch from a floating corpse. I can’t say how effective it will be. But I can try.”
Ji Liang admired him when he heard Zhang Chi wanted to get started on work before even eating lunch. He hastened, “Don’t worry, brother, our work is full of countless unknowns. That’s what makes it interesting. Just do your best, do your best.”
Zhang Chi followed the forensic expert to the freezer as he sent Gu Shi a text message: “How’s everything going over there? Smoothly?”
“No sweat.” Gu Shi added a smiley face emoji. “You?”
“Looks like today I’m going to have to look at a floating corpse while I eat lunch,” he shot back.
“Congrats on winning the lottery. Looks like the toughest cases are running to you.” She followed her mockery with, “Have you been in touch with Dad? I called his cell phone but he didn’t answer.”
“No, I’ve been in a meeting all morning. He might be in prisoner lockup. There’s no signal there.”
“Okay. It’s not important anyway. I’ll try again later. I’ll let you get back to work.”
Zhang Chi read the message and put on a pair of gloves and relieved, walked into the laboratory. Despite being mentally prepared, when he first saw the two corpses, his naturally reacted by retching. The forensic expert was ready and handed him a plastic bag.
“I just asked you if you wanted to eat first. Regret it now?” He looked happy as he strolled around naturally.
Zhang Chi pressed his hand against his chest, and kept it down. He waved him off. “I’d have regretted it if I had eaten. Would have been a complete waste. I’m alright now. I saved myself a lunch meal.”
Certainly, the heads of both bodies had already swelled up a lot and were decaying. Even in a cold freezer, the stench of the bodies intermittently assailed his nostrils. Their faces looked even more horrible and savage. They were hard to look at directly. The forensic expert kept his distance. Anyone who looked at them would lose his appetite for most of the day.
Zhang Chi paid it no mind and asked the personnel to help put the bodies on the dissection tables as he quickly adapted to the situation. He stepped closed to the bodies once again and said, “Have we ascertained the ages?”
“Their ages can be placed between twenty-five and thirty-five.”
Zhang Chi smiled helplessly. “The skin of a twenty-five year old and thirty-five year old can be completely different.”
The forensic expert spread his hands. “Given the conditions of the bodies, that’s the best I can deduce. Based on the bone density and cartilage measurements, that’s the narrowest I can make the range. I understand, restoring the faces for your composite sketch will be more difficult than usual. Just give it a shot and see.”
Zhang Chi said nothing but pulled up a chair and sat between the two dissection tables and began taking in the details. The forensic expert watched him from behind and sympathetically handed him a nasal inhaler.