A Train Named Evil - 16
The train left the plain and began to enter a forest. The further it traveled, the more it fell under the forest’s shadow. Only a slice of sunlight fell inside the car, landing on Wu Fengrong’s arm where he sat by the window. He lifted his wrist, wondering was the sunlight white? Was it the white of snow? Or was human skin naturally that white? This white was nothing but the emptiness that existed in the human heart. He shrunk away to the side in disgust, like a snail withdrawing into grey shadows.
Catching He Youan didn’t make him happy at all. He felt no sense of accomplishment from solving this case. A teen killed another teen. Was this a win? A loss? It was just a complete tragedy. An adult’s responsibility was to try to their utmost to reduce the grief their children would be faced with and open the way for a bright clean world. Otherwise, what use was an adult?
Zhao Xintao could see that he was in a bad mood. He gently and cautiously said: “I called the school to verify. He Youan is a freshman in Tongzhou City First High, and it seems like his home life is unfortunate. I let him describe Xiao Quan, and the details he gave matched with the photograph. He’s in your office right now under guard by the transit police. I’ve given him some food. He’s quite an obedient kid, but he doesn’t speak much. I think he’s depressed. Still, he’s a minor. If he pleads guilty, I think the court will be lenient.”
Wu Fengrong said: “I don’t pity him. Whether it was by impulse or by accident murder is still murder, and he has to eat the fruit he picked. I just feel that catching him wasn’t something in which to take pride.”
“Who could’ve thought it’d be a child, ne? Now, the matter of contacting the parents will be done by the Ministry of Public Security and their protocols, so that’s not something I can do, and the school still hasn’t replied. What else do you think needs to be done?”
“That young girlfriend of his, have the attendants look after her. Don’t let her do anything foolish. Young minds can easily find trouble. See whether or not she wants to return home and, just to make things easy, make arrangements if she wants to get off at the next stop and buy a ticket for a return trip home.”
“Good. I’m going to prepare to hand him over at the next station. It’s possible that we may be delayed at the next stop. In a while, you’ll have to remember to go to the broadcasting room to read aloud to the passengers what I’m writing. Just say that we need to service the train, so this matter can be kept quiet.”
Wu Fengrong nodded and clarified a few last work matters before indicating that he would work first.
A moment later, someone came up and hugged Wu Fengrong from behind. Without turning around, he spoke softly: “I’m a little tired.”
Zhou Yanling kissed the side of his face and groaned. The two hadn’t had a lot of time to just quietly embrace. In fact, Zhou Yanling wasn’t in a good frame of mind, either. He had just finished listening to Wu Fengrong’s recording and had asked He Youan some questions. According to He’s version of events, he hadn’t thought that he would be able to successfully frame Zhou Yanling for his crime. It had been an idea hatched in a fit of desperation, and after he’d returned home he’d been fretting that he’d slipped up somewhere. Now and then, he’d wondered if Zhou Yanling’s coworker had gone to the police or if Zhou Yanling himself had remembered. It wasn’t until the Ministry of Public Security had announced that he was wanted that He Youan had genuinely relaxed. A 16 year old boy had managed to successfully hoodwink the police. Unexpectedly, he was actually a little proud of himself. Committing crimes was actually simple. Listening to his explanation, Zhou Yanling was so angry that he almost threw hot tea in his face. He was really quite disgusted.
“By all accounts, we’ve finally caught the perpetrator. The person who put you on the train should be satisfied. Have you received a text?” Wu Fengrong asked.
Zhou Yanling shook his head: “I think it’ll take a while. They won’t find out that quickly.”
“Are you curious to find out who put you on this train?”
“I want to find out. But I also think that there’s something strange about this matter with He.”
“Do you think that we caught him too easily and too quickly?”
“As I listened to him recounting what happened, I think that there’s a problem with what he said.”
“What do you mean?”
Zhou Yanling thought: “Either there’s still something he’s yet to say or some of what he’s said isn’t true. I don’t mean that everything that he’s said is false, only that a portion of it is. Have you contacted his parent’s yet? Did you check his family’s background? There are indeed some parents who are too busy and not particularly concerned about their children, but even without parents a child will still be close to another person. He is so stubborn that he didn’t even talk to his girlfriend about his crime. Did anyone else, a nanny, a teacher, a sibling or a friend, know about it?”
“Speak plainly. Why do you think he’s lying? Is there any proof? What do you think he’s trying to conceal?”
“At the very least, that 158 yuan fee at the internet cafe is outrageously steep. That day he definitely didn’t go to class. He probably skipped and went to the internet cafe. Have you ever gone to an internet cafe? Nowadays, even small internet cafes charge less than 10 yuan an hour. But if you’re a frequent customer, it’s normal to only be charged 4 or 5 yuan an hour. Even if he only paid 10 yuan an hour and also paid for both food and drinks, he would’ve had to have stayed for at least seven or eight hours to rack up a 158 yuan fee. In other words, he’d have had to stay there all day playing.”
“Isn’t it quite normal for a young boy to skip? What else is wrong?”
“Also, my old colleague. He put the pipe in my hand, then ran away after he finished. But he certainly couldn’t have planned for what my old colleague did after returning from calling a car. If it were me, seeing a corpse and a murder weapon, I’d probably be able to draw some conclusions. If I were unscrupulous, I would’ve left my friend at the scene and run myself. But what if I called the police? Ordinarily, people confronted with a corpse would report that to the police. If my old colleague had called the police right then and there, then he probably wouldn’t have been able to frame me, and he would’ve wasted all that effort. How can he be so certain that people are dishonest?”
Wu Fengrong sniggered: “I’ve never seen you try to indirectly praise someone like this. Didn’t you call him later? Hiding, dodging and sneaking. Your opinion of your old colleague as a man without a good moral compass is accurate.”
Zhou Yanling smiled: “From a purely forensic view point, the financial records are not enough. The time of payment is quite close to the time of death. Xiao Quan died at around 11:40 and he checked out at 11:15. The time in between would be just enough to have a fight. But ultimately it’s not enough to prove that he’s the killer, only that he was there at that time on that night. If that’s the case, then it’s the same as my circumstances. I was also present at the crime scene at that time, so does that mean that I’m the true killer?”
Finally, Wu Fengrong understood: “Are you saying that he’s not the murderer?”
Zhou Yanling said: “No, he confessed. At this point, can I even say that he’s not the murderer, ma? I’m only saying that his evidence supporting his claims is a little thin. If he wants to prove that he killed Xiao Quan, then his testimony by itself isn’t enough to prove that. If Xiao Quan’s fingerprints were on his clothes, or if the blood under Xiao Quan’s fingernails tested positive for his DNA, then that would be undeniable proof. It’d be just like how the police identified me as the suspect because my fingerprints were on the water pipe.”
“Now that he’s confessed, his testimony is enough. He’s not stupid. He must have wiped the pipe before planting it on you. Unless you have any other way to prove that he used the pipe without leaving fingerprints.”
“In the absence of fingerprints, how could you prove that He Youan used the water pipe?”
Zhou Yanling stared at the close-up photo of the murder weapon. The pipe was a part of a drainpipe that had been torn down and was about 110 mm in diameter. From head to foot, it had been eroded beyond recognition. Rust bloomed colorfully, poisonous and red, growing in vigorous expanses. It resembled nothing more than an arm infected with a skin disease, the surface mottled and peeling. The sharp and tiny curls glistened as they were exposed to the light. Those rust spots……
Abruptly, a though arose in Zhou Yanling’s mind. His breath caught. Wu Fengrong sensed that something was wrong and he grasped his hand, tightly. Zhou Yanling opened his mouth: “Mistake. RongRong, we’ve made a mistake.”
Wu Fengrong waited for him to finish speaking. Zhou Yanling pointed to the photo and said: “His injury shouldn’t be on the back of the hand, but on the palm. This thing is rusted and damaged. It’s not safe to use, so if you hold it with your bare hands, you’re sure to harm yourself. Wave it around and the rust will cause abrasions on your palm. The palms of both hands might even be injured. It’s unlikely that the injuries are serious, but there should be more than one and they’re likely to be clustered close together.”
“But He Youan has only injured one hand. I saw his palm and it doesn’t appear to have any injuries……”
Wu Fengrong stopped speaking, his eyes reflecting his growing suspicions. Only one injury to the back of the hand, an unusually large internet fee, a juvenile who confessed his guilt…..with all of these circumstances strung together, he could only see one truth.
Zhou Yanling smacked his head and shouted: “It wasn’t He Youan. It was Shi Xiaoran. Xiao Quan’s killer was that young girl!”
The two ran out of car 6 without further thought.
The 158 yuan fee could have covered two people. It wouldn’t have been odd if at that time and on that night it wasn’t only He Youan but also Shi Xiaoran at the internet cafe. Xiao Quan had certainly fought with He Youan but it was ultimately Shi Xiaoran who had picked up the water pipe to defend her boyfriend. He Youan might have happened to see Zhou Yanling, or perhaps it was the other way around and Zhou Yanling ran into him on the train. Regardless, he called the police but didn’t expect that Wu Fengrong had already known of Zhou Yanling’s innocence. Seizing this opportunity [to have Zhou Yanling arrested in his stead] didn’t work out and instead brought calamity right to his doorstep. He couldn’t let Shi Xiaoran be arrested so he took the fall for his girlfriend.
To Wu Fengrong he’d said: “I’m sorry that I haven’t grown up to be an adult who can take responsibility for my actions.”
He already tried to run away from his responsibilities and pin the blame on Zhou Yanling. When that didn’t work, he again decided to shoulder what wasn’t his fault. He only recalled being a boyfriend, but when all was said and done this sin wasn’t one he could claim.
Zhou Yanling’s phone rang so loudly it shook heaven and earth, and he had no choice but to step to the side and take it out. Wu Fengrong stood beside him and looked.
–Mr. Zhou, I’m very disappointed that your answer is incorrect.
As Wu Fengrong opened his mouth to speak, a gust of wind blew from behind him. Before he could react, someone came up from behind him and violently hit him on the back of the neck, causing his head to hit the wall. He didn’t even get a chance to see his attacker’s face. He could only feel his chest constrict and he took a breath of warm air before he fell unconscious. Zhou Yanling didn’t stop to think. He swept a leg back, but only struck air. At the same time, he felt a chill on his neck, heralding a sneak attack. Quickly and nimbly, he turned his body and intercepted the arm heading his way, easily grabbing and pulling the person forward to face him.
The person was wearing a black mask and hat so that only his eyes were visible. Their eyelashes were still moistened with snowflakes, as though they had just come in from outside. Zhou Yanling was secretly surprised. It was impossible. At the speed the train was going, how was this person able to climb the car, ba? He reached out to pull off the mask. He was intercepted halfway there, his hand was knocked away. Such strength!
“It was because of my negligence that I caught the wrong person. But surely you’re acting too rudely and capriciously. Do you have a personal grudge against that girl, ba?” Zhou Yanling shouted.
In response, the other party threw a punch at Zhou Yanling’s face. The speed of this violent asshole’s fist was extremely fast. Zhou Yanling was unable to dodge in time and his head twisted to the side from the impact, his teeth were almost broken from the force of the strike, and he was forced to retreat. His heart was in the pit of his stomach. His assailant not only knew how to fight, he was much better than that Blue Jacket Thief who didn’t know how to move. This one moved with the surety of a professional. As the thought flashed through Zhou Yanling’s mind, his movements changed slightly to a [different] fighting style. The assailant kept pace/caught up with him quickly. The two were experienced combatants. As the two exchanged blows, it momentarily couldn’t be distinguished who was superior. Zhou Yanling was burning with anger and burgeoning excitement. But from beginning to end, his counterpart didn’t expose their real face.
Fighting in the middle of the door to the toilets was sure to attract attention. Zhou Yanling lead them to the front of the dining car. Seeing the crowd gathered ahead, the perpetrator picked up the paper bin at their side and threw it. Zhou Yanling was shocked. As he turned around, he saw an attendant sticking their head in their direction. He turned to face them and kicked the door to the car. The stainless steel can smashed into the door with a clang!
The attendant didn’t understand the reason why and banged on the door. Zhou Yanling leaned idly against the door and laughed brightly: “Girl, you’re bra’s come undone. Don’t be in such a hurry to fix it.” The sounds from inside the door immediately died away.
From inside the paper bin fell a small broken steel ruler, as thin as joss paper and with sharp corners. One end was directly facing Zhou Yanling and it appeared as though it were a thin damaged metallic grey thread. Zhou Yanling picked the ruler up, which was light and thin in his grasp, then slapped the assailant lightly on the back of the hand, as though he were mocking them, resembling nothing so much as a teacher reprimanded a student. This enraged the assailant who tried to seize the ruler. But from behind came the sound of footsteps nearing, and the assailant’s plans changed to escape!
Zhou Yanling refused to let him flee and kicked the bin so it’d smash into him, hitting him in the shoulder. The assailant stumbled back a step, then turned his body to the side and struck out at his leg. Zhou Yanling took two steps back to avoid the sole of his shoe. The assailant somersaulted twice before the car door opened with a clatter and the figure, like snow, fled vanishing outside the door.
Zhou Yanling chased them to the door, but all traces of them had already vanished. Outside the door frame was only the boundless snowy woods. He sighed, helplessly. From the corner of his eye, he could see the end of a rope suspended in the air, and he laughed bitterly.
Is it fashionable to jump out of trains these days? Still, this one managed it better than the other. When did people start to enter and exit trains at their leisure?
He turned around to return to Wu Fengrong, helped him up and asked the dining car attendant for some hot water.
The unconscious Wu Fengrong scared the stewardess greatly. While Zhou Yanling carried him over to place him onto a bench, he took out the steel ruler and handed it to the attendant: “Go and see if this ruler is from the train or if someone’s lost it. Find the person in charge and ask them to come here. Don’t touch this directly. Wrap it in a paper towel. You can set it aside for the police as evidence.” He didn’t feel comfortable leaving Wu Fengrong here to try to find Shi Xiaoran. He had no choice but to call for Zhao Xintao to come so he could have the transit police search car 6.
After a while, the medical officer came and examined Wu Fengrong. He wasn’t in grave danger: “He’ll wake up later. Don’t you worry.”
Zhou Yanling wiped his face: “It’s my fault. If I hadn’t handled it so terribly, he wouldn’t have been injured.”
The medical officer inferred something from this and stifled a laugh with behind his hand. Zhou Yanling didn’t understand why, so the medical officer explained: “Rong ge isn’t a hot-blooded man. His heart is like a mirror (1). If he doesn’t chose to do it, nothing could possibly force him to.”
Zhou Yanling smiled: “Are you saying this to comfort me, or are you feeling sorry for him?”
While giving Wu Fengrong medicine, the medical officer said, gravely: “Rong ge tries very hard. So even though he sometimes has a bad temper, Mr. Zhou should be considerate of him. When he wakes I don’t if he’ll scold you. But if he does, let him. He’ll be scolding you because to ease the worry he feels in his heart. Once, when a patient fell ill on the train, he was more worried than even the patient’s family and reprimanded us saying that we were moving too slowly. Yet after the event, he brought around steamed meat buns and rejoiced with us. This is the type of person that he is.”
Zhou Yanling thought to himself, isn’t this accurate? He’s gathered such a loyal and devoted crew around himself.
“What’s your name?” Zhou Yanling asked.
The medical examiner shook the name tag on his chest: “Coincidentally, you and I share the same surname. You may call me Xiaochi.”
T/N: Congratulations to Azhreik who guessed the real(?) killer.
1. 明镜: something that provides clarity and insight