# 12. Sharp Like a Tiger Constable Wang sat at the head seat, face gloomy, silent. These few days, the first thing that Magistrate Zhu had done after getting out of bed, was to ask about the progress of the case, and when Wang did not give a satisfactory response, scolded and cursed him out. He alone had to carry all this pressure and stress, his subordinates hid under this umbrella he provided, and not only did they not help him take some pressure off, but they also argued up at him! Constable Wang thus had a reason to be angry. He thought that the was carrying stress that a man of his age was not meant to carry. After receiving the case dossier, Xu Qi’an sat at the tableside, focused on the page. Around him was his coworkers, who occasionally exchanged looks silently. Xu Qi’an’s thoughts were very well set out; convince old Wang that the best method was to solve the case. If this really didn’t work, then he’d invite old Wang to go play around in the “Peach Garden”, as after all they’ve known each other for that many years, the boat of friendship wasn’t that easily rocked. Furthermore, Xu Qi’an preventing the moyu was not just because his worldview could not accept it, but also because he wanted to take some of the pressure off his boss. *The victim was called Zhang Yourui, 51 years old, a wealthy merchant who lived on Kangping street. On the edges of Changle County he has a dozen or more acres of farmland, in the city he has three stores, selling silk, makeup, and general goods respectively.* *His first wife died early, and so later he married a woman twenty years his junior. Zhang Yourui has an only son, from his first wife. He does not have any other descendants.* A twenty year gap, an old stick in a new fish, a pear blossom weighing down the crab apple… Xu Qi’an silently scolded him. This is that so-called “As long as you’re working hard and making money, your future wife is still in nursery?” *Four days ago, Zhang Yourui went to the countryside to collect rent, returning to his home at 4 AM. His wife, sleeping in the house, suddenly heard a scream, and when she went outside to check, Zhang Yourui had already died within the courtyard. His wife saw a black shadow climb over the wall…* The events were just like thus. When Xu Qi’an read to the coroner’s account of the autopsy, he noticed another suspicious point. Resisting any urges, he continued reading on, looking through witness statements from the victim’s family and servants. Closing his eyes, he slowly organised and worked through the details in his mind. Constable Wang hmphed coldly, and ridiculed “May I ask Bailiff Xu, who was the perpetrator, and where could we find them?” “Don’t be hasty, boss.” Xu Qi’an opened his eyes, “I saw from the dossier, that there was a footprint left outside the Zhang residence. You used this to deduce that the perpetrator escaped by climbing over the wall, and that young madam’s words were truthful.” Constable Wang replied with a “hm.” “The footprint was facing outwards, so it was left when he fled.” Xu Qi’an continued. “What’s wrong with this?” Wang frowned. “Why would he leave a footprint?” “Because there was mud on his foot.” “Why is there mud?” “Because beside the wall was a flowerbed.” Xu Qi’an nodded, “Then, why did the dossier not mention any footsteps going into the yard?” Constable Wang stiffened. In the ensuing silence, the other bailiffs thought that Wang was losing face, and so replied for him “Perhaps when the perpetrator entered, he noticed this, and so took care not to leave traces.” Another person piped up, “But after he committed the murder, he was desperate to escape, thus in this hurry he heft a footprint.” Xu Qi’an looked over them, “There is this possibility. Then since there was a flowerbed under the wall, was there a footprint in the flowerbed from his entry? If the perpetrator could jump from the outside, flip over the wall and land beyond the flowerbed and not leave a print, then when he left there would be no reason why he would heave one.” The crowd looked back and forth between each other, unable to reply. Without them needing to respond, Xu Qi’an already knew the answer: I don’t know. The bailiffs didn’t investigate this detail. “Ningyan, why does this need so much debate?” someone wasn’t convinced. Xu Qi’an did not respond, rather looking at the frowning constable, continuing, “The victim was killed by a blunt weapon to the back of the head, right?” Constable Wang nodded, “He died immediately.” “I have a question, why was it a blunt weapon? The perpetrator performed this so cleanly, he must have carried his own weapons with him. Is not using a knife or a sword to kill much cleaner and easier?” The hall fell silent. It was clear to see, that everyone had seen through the problem with this. Little Li guessed “Perhaps the perpetrator initially didn’t want to kill?” “Incorrect!” This time, it was not Xu Qi’an that responded, but rather Constable Wang. He stood up, eyes wide, “A blunt weapon to the back of the head, killing in one hit, the perpetrator was looking to kill.” He sat back down, muttering “Yes, indeed, why did he use a blunt weapon, why not a sharp one?” “Unless the perpetrator did not have one to hand at the time.” Xu Qi’an replied. Light flashed through Wang’s eyes, as if he just grasped something that had been eluding him for ages, but had not quite figured out what he had just grasped. “One more thing, that caught my attention.” Xu Qi’an glanced at the dossier, “When we brought in the victim’s families for questioning, due to kneeling for too long, Madam Yang of Zhang suddenly fainted. When the doctor attended to her, he found out that she was pregnant.” “A child that would never know his father.” “Such a shame.” The onlookers really made people angry, what with their constant interruptions. “Madam Yang was married to the victim for the best part of ten years, why did she suddenly get pregnant now?” Xu Qi’an waited until they finished, before finding an opportunity to speak, “perhaps the child is not even the victim’s?” When a man and a woman are both healthy, it would be impossible for them to not give birth after ten years, unless they specifically took prevention measures. One of the two must have some sort of health issue, thus making them unable to have children, and with these ancient methods of curing impotency, though they are not entirely useless, the chance of success was still very low. Constable Wang’s breathing suddenly got heavier, “Ningyan, what are you getting at?” Xu Qi’an drank a mouthful of tea, remoisturising his throat, “Perhaps it was not a thief who entered the property, rather a case of murder due to an affair. Madam Yang carried a child from her affair. The offending father must be either an outsider, or the victim’s son. When the victim went out to collect taxes, they took the opportunity to meet with each other. Who was expecting that the victim returned in the middle of the night, and caught them in the act. There was an altercation, and so the other man in a fit of rage, picked up a flowerpot or some other sort of blunt object, and beat the victim to death. “Madam Zhang hurriedly cleaned the crime scene, and dragged the victim out into the yard, pretending that it was a burglar who had broken in. “Given that they wanted to sleep together, the male must have looked into the patterns of the patrol routes, thus avoiding the patrolling guards. If the bastard really wanted money, he would not have acted that night, but rather waited until the victim had brought the money back, turned it into promissory notes. Those could simply be stuffed into a pocket, and taken.” The room of bailiffs were speechless. “This… this… just by looking at the dossier, you could deduce out the perpetrator?” “Ningyan, don’t bullshit with us.” “But, doesn’t he have a point?” Xu Qi’an’s actions made them all feel the same: I have no idea what you said, but you seem really competent at it. “I’m only making some educated guesses based on the details in the case. This may not be the real situation, and must be proved or disproved.” Xu Qi’an replied. The process of solving a case was just like that: find leads, analyse and deduce, and finally find evidence and proof. *The perpetrator got round the patrolling soldiers… the timing of the break in was wrong… he was killed with a blunt weapon, and not a sharp one… Madam Zhang was pregnant…* through Xu Qi’an’s reasoning, these seemingly unrelated details suddenly lined up into a logical possibility. Constable Wang felt as he had just had a door opened onto a new world for his career. Breathing deeply, stilling all the tumultuous emotions, he thought through the reasoning carefully, and found one small point of suspicion in Xu Qi’an’s words, “Why do you think the male in the affair was the victim’s son?” “There are two reasons why I suspect him.” Xu Qi’an leisurely drank some tea, onlooked by Constable Wang, and his coworkers’ anxious expressions, and slowly said: “The victim’s son Zhang Xian said in his statement, that that night he was in the study looking through accounts, and did not sleep with his wife. Given that he was awake, how could he not have heard the commotion in the yard? “Secondly, if we cannot find traces of any person breaking in, then it’s highly likely that that person never existed in the first place. From this, we can see that the victim’s son has the highest suspicion.” They were suddenly enlightened. Constable Wang asked: “So, the footprint on the wall is likely to be a deliberately left mark, to confuse us?” Xu Qi’an guessed, “Yes, of course we could go and compare it against the son’s shoes.” “He wouldn’t have left his own footprint, right?” Wang replied. Xu Qi’an’s whole face lit up in admiration, as he laid his constable with flattery, “Boss is clearly wise beyond your years, you immediately saw the issue. Thou art one of Great Feng’s most brilliant constables!” Earlier, Xu Qi’an had talked at great length, deducing things that stunned his onlookers, forming a new persona around himself, only to turn around and shower him with flattery and praise from all sides, feels good… Constable Wang’s dark face burst into a smile. He felt as if his own image had been raised by quite a bit. “I will immediately ask for Master Zhu, you guys prepare yourselves, and come with me again to inspect the Zhang residence.” Wang’s tanned, farmer-like face showed an excited and restless expression. He pointed towards Xu Qi’an, and let out two tractor-like laughs, before energetically bouncing towards the back hall, to find the Magistrate.