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The King of Detectives

6

The Card that Foreshadows Death

11

Han Yun picked up his coffee and took a sip. Perhaps because Su Mo was sitting across from him, making this otherwise leisurely morning feel a bit restless, the coffee had lost its original flavor.


He still preferred to be alone, to find a seat by the window, and watch the scenery outside while sipping a cup of espresso.


"Dong Xing didn't die in a hospital or at home. He was found dead in a dilapidated apartment building, with stab wounds. The building was nearly empty, most of the residents having moved away, leaving vacant units awaiting demolition. The person who reported the crime was an elderly widower living on the ground floor, childless and recently bereaved. He had been planning to sell his apartment and move into a nursing home when he received a call from a potential buyer who wanted to view the property. As the old man prepared to tidy up the apartment, he noticed bloodstains seeping down from the floor above.


The room above the old man's apartment was where Dong Xing's body was discovered. The living room was set up as a makeshift operating room, complete with a surgical table, various surgical instruments, and medical equipment. During the police investigation, Dong Xing's wife admitted that her husband had been taking on private medical work in recent years."


"Given his status as a star doctor at Beidu First People's Hospital, why would he need to take on private work?" Su Mo seemed determined to continue their conversation, and Han Yun, knowing he couldn't avoid it, asked the question.


"It's not about money. Hospitals have their rules and regulations, and everything comes with a price tag. Many patients can't afford treatment, let alone surgery, even if they sell everything they own. Dong Xing's wife said he performed surgeries for these people for free. Obviously, he couldn't do them in the hospital, so he would usually schedule appointments with patients at that old building," Su Mo explained, picking up her coffee but not taking a sip, instead looking at Han Yun. "Dong Xing paid for everything himself, and over time, his hospital salary wasn't enough. So, he started taking on private surgeries for wealthy clients under the radar. These surgeries were quite expensive, and he used the money to subsidize his free surgeries for the poor."


"What if something goes wrong during surgery without hospital supervision?" Han Yun asked, his brow furrowed.


"Dong Xing would always have the patient's family sign a waiver beforehand. The most important thing is that these people couldn't afford surgery anyway and were left to wait for death at home. Now that someone was willing to help, even if something went wrong during surgery, the family probably wouldn't blame him," Su Mo explained with a sigh. "However, I haven't seen a list of exactly how many people Dong Xing operated on privately. That list is with the Major Crimes Unit.


"What do you know about the second victim?" Han Yun leaned back in his chair, hands crossed over his chest. "Tell me."


"Two days ago, in the middle section of Tanggu Street. The caller was a sanitation worker. The body was found dismembered, stuffed into a suitcase," Su Mo explained. She picked up her backpack next to her, rummaged through it, and pulled out a photo, handing it to Han Yun.


Han Yun didn't take the photo, simply leaning forward to glance at it. The picture showed a black suitcase, open, revealing a gruesome scene inside. Human limbs – arms, legs, feet – were clearly visible, along with the torso and head.


"The average person would probably vomit at the sight of the photo, but Han Yun remained expressionless. He stared at it for a good ten seconds before shifting his gaze and saying, 'The victim was approximately 1.75 meters tall. The killer has some sort of OCD, as evidenced by the neat arrangement of the limbs, head, and torso inside the suitcase. Additionally, the dismemberment wasn't done for the purpose of disposal. A suitcase that big could easily accommodate the entire body without the need for dismemberment. So, why go through the trouble of cutting off the limbs? Unless the killer derived some kind of pleasure from the act itself.'"


"Pleasure?" Su Mo reached out and took the photo, examining it herself.


"Yes, for instance, the killer might cut off the victim's limbs while they're still alive, torturing them to death. This act could bring the killer a sense of satisfaction," Han Yun explained, taking a sip of his coffee. "If these two cases are indeed the work of the same perpetrator, then it's highly likely that Dong Xing was also disemboweled under similar circumstances."


"I haven't gone through the forensic reports from the police yet, but I've obtained crucial evidence that links these two cases to the same killer," Su Mo said. She put away the photo, took out her phone, and scrolled through it before showing another photo to Han Yun.


The photo showed a white card stained red with a circle drawn on it.


"This was found inside Dong Xing's body," Su Mo explained, putting her phone away and pulling up another photo to show Han Yun. "This was found in the mouth of the second victim."


The second victim's mouth also contained a white card made of the same material, with the number "1" written on it.


"Interesting," Han Yun said, taking the phone from Su Mo and examining the number closely. "If the second victim is represented by a one, then the first victim shouldn't be a circle, but a zero. 'Zero victim' would imply no victim, yet someone is dead. So, I doubt the killer is using these cards to indicate the order of the deaths to the police. There might be another meaning. Zero, a creation without an identity..."


"As far as I know, both victims received these cards before their deaths. Before I decided to crash the press conference last night, the police had already identified the second victim. His name is Bai Jing, he's unmarried, and he worked as a real estate manager," Su Mo explained, slightly frowning. "This is all I know for now. I'm sure you guys have more detailed investigation records from the police. That's why I wanted to bring this to your attention."


"Death Note, that was a pretty popular web drama recently. Is the killer imitating the murders?" Han Yun handed the phone back to Su Mo, then raised his coffee cup and drained the contents. "So, you're still trying to get me to spill the case details through you? I'm afraid I can't help you with that. As a reporter for the Beidu Legal Daily, you should know that it's against protocol to disclose any details of an ongoing investigation."


"I certainly have basic professional ethics," Su Mo took a deep breath and lowered her voice slightly. "I want you to take over this case personally."


"While I do hold the title of 'Case Consultant' and have the authority to participate in any ongoing investigation, why should I help you?" Han Yun stretched and glanced at the time on his phone.


"You're right, I have no reason to ask for your help. I also know that you're only interested in cases that pique your curiosity, regardless of who the victims are or how many more might die," Su Mo said, staring at Han Yun.


Han Yun smirked and stood up, saying, "What you just described is the character I played in the drama, not me. Well, coffee time is over for today. Oh, and by the way, I won't be coming to this cafe again tomorrow."


"Wait," Su Mo called out to Han Yun. She reached into her pocket, pulled out a white card with a number on it, and placed it on the table. Then, in a low voice, she said, "How about this reason?

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