Chapter 2 The Disappearing Murderer

He Wei, Chong Zhen, and Xia Liang were huddled together in the small security room.
Each staircase of the Shengshi Hotel had cameras, all of which were connected to a computer.
The screen was divided into six equal parts; five were videos of the staircase, and one was of the entrance door.

There were currently four guests staying in the Shengshi Hotel, all of whom lived on the third floor.
There were three employees on duty tonight.
The manager usually gets off work around ten o’clock.
Tonight, he was checking the accounts, so he stayed till late.
The surveillance cameras below the third floor, including the corridor, had video of the three employees and guests going up and down, but no one had gone up the stairs on the fourth and fifth floors.
At about 12:10, the manager went upstairs alone, and until the time he fell to his death, no other person was seen to go there.

“I have checked the surveillance video, and there is no sign of cutting or overwriting.
This is the original.” Xia Liang sat in front of the computer, skillfully fast-forwarding and replaying the video, “From the beginning to the end, there is only the manager in the surveillance video.
The murderer didn’t go upstairs, so how did he get to the roof?”

Chong Zhen grabbed He Wei’s shoulder with one hand and rubbed Xia Liang’s hairy head with the other: “Didn’t you watch more than five hundred episodes of Conan? Use your imagination, anime boy.”

“It’s more than seven hundred episodes!” Xia Liang scratched the back of his head, “How can it be compared to Conan? The modus operandi in it is too mysterious; no normal person can imagine it.
But since they can’t be seen in the surveillance, I speculate the murderer went up during the day and stayed on the roof to ambush; or he might have climbed up the wall without making a sound just like Spiderman…”

“Although it sounds unreliable, there is indeed such a possibility.” He Wei took Chong Zhen’s hand off his shoulder and said, “Go and inspect the outer wall with Erhu and others.
Check the air-conditioning frame and awning carefully, and bring all the useful things back.”

“There is another possibility! Helicopter! By throwing a ladder down, oh, how cool is this!”

Chong Zhen grabbed the child’s neck to interrupt his fantasy, feeling that those more than 700 episodes of the anime were really unreliable.
It was much better to check the surveillance of that time more carefully to see if there were any suspicious characters.

He Wei stared at the screen, then suddenly pressed the space bar with his slender index finger, and the image of the manager looking up at the black box on the wall froze.
Chong Zhen leaned over: “This is the meter box; I saw it when I went upstairs.”

“Why does your manager go to check the meter box in the middle of the night?” He Wei turned his head and looked at the security guard standing honestly beside him.

The security guard replied: “There has been a power cut in our hotel recently, and it happened again tonight.
The manager went upstairs to check the meter box and was going to report for repairs tomorrow.” 

He Wei pressed the spacebar again, and the video continued to play.
They saw the manager open the meter box, but he closed it again within a minute.
Looking at his posture, he turned around and was about to go downstairs, but stopped and walked toward the rusty door on the roof.

“He didn’t intend to go to the rooftop.
He was attracted to something.” Chong Zhen stroked the tiny stubble on his chin and asked, “Did he hear someone calling his name? It’s often done like this in ghost movies.” 

Xia Liang shuddered: “If I hear an unknown person call my name, I will not dare to go there.” 

“There may be other movements, and it is not difficult to attract a person over.” He Wei continued to ask the security guard, “How long has this place been haunted here?”

 “It’s been half a month.
Every day, around eleven o’clock.
The old man disappears as soon as the sensor light goes off.” 

“Has everyone seen him?”

“A few cleaners who specialize in the day shift have never seen him.
However, the gate of hell is closed and doesn’t open during the day.”

Yun Xiaoxiao mentioned earlier that this security guard had a superstition, saying that some gate of hell was opened and dragged people in.
He wasn’t surprised; after all, this hotel was located in a remote place, and further down was a large crop field.
The employees in the hotel were almost all nearby villagers.
In the countryside, there were always rumors about Huang DaXian 1 possessing people, so it wasn’t unexpected.

“Xiao Xia, copy the surveillance video from the last half month.”

Xia Liang nodded and began to copy the video.
Chong Zhen went to Hu Songkai to check the outer wall, while He Wei returned to the hotel lobby.
Seeing him come in, Yun Xiaoxiao stood up and explained the basic information about the deceased.

“Chen Lei, male, thirty-four years old, married with a four-year-old daughter, lives in Chenjia Village, two kilometers away from the hotel.” The transcript in Yun Xiaoxiao’s hand turned to another page: “He is the manager and accountant of this hotel.
He is also a relative of the boss.
The boss hardly comes here, and it’s Chen Lei who is managing the hotel.” 

“Did you call his family?”

“Someone informed his wife just after the accident, but she still hasn’t come.
It took less than three minutes to drive from Chenjia Village to here, and it took only a quarter of an hour on foot.” 

As soon as she finished speaking, they heard a woman crying and wailing in the yard, calling Chen Lei’s name.
He Wei and Yun Xiaoxiao walked over, only to see Chen Lei’s wife crying beside the white cloth-covered body and a sleepy little girl standing beside her, who probably didn’t realize that she had lost her father.
She tilted her head and stared at the white cloth in a daze.

“What would I and your daughter do after you’re gone?! …and your mother and father, who will take care of them!…”

The woman cried out breathlessly, and the police officer on the side couldn’t bear it and advised her to restrain her grief and accept her fate.
The scene of the separation of relatives always makes people feel depressed.
Yun Xiaoxiao sighed: “The child is still so young.
How pitiful.”

He Wei stared at the woman and suddenly said, “It’s a bit strange.”

Yun Xiaoxiao blinked: “What’s the matter, captain?” 

“She came here with makeup on.”


It was already late at night, and the rain that had been falling all night finally stopped, the dark clouds dispersed, and the moon and stars were sparse.
After the police removed the body, the spectators almost dispersed, and the night finally gradually returned to tranquility.

“Lei Zi usually checks accounts and comes back at night, and my child and I are used to it.
We, mother and daughter, have already gone to bed.
When I heard that Lei Zi had an accident, I hurried over with my daughter…” Chen Lei’s wife, Wang Cui, had red eyes.
The daughter was very sensible.
When she saw her mother crying, she handed her another piece of tissue.

“You’ve been home all this time?” Yun Xiaoxiao stared at her, saying, “It was less than 12:30 when I called to inform you, and it’s already 1:00.
How long does it take to get from your home to the hotel?” 

Wang Cui hesitated and said it was a rainy day, and her daughter was too young.
She accidentally stepped in a mud puddle while walking with her at night, so she went back to change her clothes before coming over.

“Went back to change clothes, and put on makeup on the way?” Yun Xiaoxiao pointed to her lips with a pen and said, “The lipstick color is still very bright.
Your husband has an accident, and you are still so leisurely?” 

Wang Cui’s face turned pale, and she quickly pulled out a piece of paper to wipe off the lipstick and changed her words again, saying her daughter fell asleep but she didn’t.
The makeup was done during the day, and she didn’t have time to remove it.

“Sister, we are all women, and I can tell at a glance how long it has been since you have put on makeup.
Your husband’s fall from a building is not simple; you’d better cooperate with us and tell the truth.” 

Wang Cui was very surprised: “Is it not an accident? Lei Zi has a good temper.
He hasn’t offended anyone, so who will harm him? Comrade police, I’ve been at home tonight with my daughter, and I’ve never gone out.
You have to trust me!

“You haven’t gone out, then did you wear such gorgeous makeup for yourself at night?” 

Wang Cui’s eyes wandered from side to side, and she made an excuse that she didn’t have good makeup skills and that she had nothing so practiced at home.

He Wei and Wang Mei were on the second floor of the hotel.
This was the main haunted place.
There were five private rooms, one on the left and one on the right.
There was a window at the end of the corridor and a storage room to the right.
At first, everyone suspected that someone was hiding in the storage room to pretend to be a ghost.
Those who were brave went to check after the old man disappeared but found nothing.
The same was true in the private room.
It was as if the old man disappeared from the face of the earth, so the haunted rumors spread in the hotel.

“I-I was standing here,” Wang Mei stood at the door of the first private room on the second floor, pointing forward, “The old man appeared at the position of the light.”

He Wei walked over and observed the environment of the corridor.
Next to the sensor light was an air vent, and below it was a window.
Turning around, there was a storage room.
When he opened it, it was only two square meters in size.
There were ladders, brushes, wrenches, and other tools inside.
Wang Mei said that the first few times the haunting incident occurred, everyone suspected that the old man was hiding in the storage room, so they had checked there countless times.

“Brother Li said that the ghost is very angry and is looking for a substitute.
This area used to be a cemetery, and it must have been disturbed by the building of a hotel… He killed the manager today, and no one knows who he will kill later.
I-I don’t want my salary; let me go home quickly!”

He Wei frowned lightly.
His light eyes swept over her; this girl was really scared, not just pretending.
It was no wonder; it was already enough for a weak girl like her that she didn’t faint from fright after seeing the murder scene with her own eyes.

However, He Wei doesn’t believe in ghosts taking lives.
If there was a murder, there must be a murderer.
Finding out the criminals hiding in the dark was what those who were engaged in the criminal investigation should do.

He looked at the vents and windows and was puzzled: “Next to the window, what kind of vents are installed here?”

“It’s abandoned, and the end of the pipe inside is blocked.” Wang Mei thought for a while, “It seems that it was originally a large room, and then a wall was built and it was changed into a small private room.”

At this moment, the sensor light went out.
He Wei stomped his foot, but there was no response.
Wang Mei jumped hard, and the sensor light turned on again.

“Poor connection?” He Wei raised his head, squinting his eyes slightly, and Wang Mei nodded: “Yes, sometimes it takes a lot of movement to turn on.
But the lights in front are all good, and the manager said that the ones here will not affect the use of the private room, so we should save the money and leave them be.”

He Wei took out the ladder from the storage room, climbed up to turn on the flashlight, and saw that the sensor light was covered with a thick layer of dust.
There were spider webs around it, and there were corpses of small flying insects in the lampshade, apparently uncleaned for a long time.
But the louver hood of the vent was much cleaner, with obvious traces of wiping.
He lowered his head and asked, “Is this place cleaned often?”

Wang Mei shook her head, not sure about this.
The light of the flashlight swept over bit by bit, and He Wei saw fresh scratches on the four screws of the louver.
He asked Wang Mei to take a Phillips screwdriver, and he took out gloves from his pocket to put them on.

The sensor light went off again, and he didn’t bother to care about it.
He took the flashlight in his mouth, unscrewed the screws one by one, and removed the louver.
As soon as it was disassembled, he didn’t see any dust.
He Wei expected that this abandoned vent would often be used.

The air vent was rectangular.
He Wei pulled out a steel ruler.
It was 40 cm long and 30 cm wide.
A flashlight went in.
The area around the air vent was spotless, except for the cobwebs around the blocked pipes.

The cleaning Aunt would never clean up here anyway.
He Wei looked at the vent, it was not realistic for a normal-sized man to climb in, but a thin woman or a short and strong man could get in.

He Wei picked up the walkie-talkie: “Hu Songkai, let two of your colleagues over there come to collect evidence on the second floor.” He thought for a while and added, “By the way, call Xiaoxiao.”

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