Chapter 738 - Case of the Dried Well
“The Six Departments had always been connected in the imperial court; any matter that affects one, would affect all six. Thus, the other five departments were also implicated in the War Ministry’s matter, creating much work for them as well. The capital’s city hall that governs the capital district is also in a flurry of activity and a complete mess. This official truly has indescribable difficulties and couldn’t sleep a single wink last night, and so have come to look for Teacher early in the morning.” He sighed forlornly again, “I won’t continue speaking of it,” he said as he waved a hand.
Ji Yunshu didn’t say anything as she listened, continuing to examine the bones in her hands as she ignored him.
Thus, the capital magistrate tried to fish for a different topic. “I heard that on this trip to investigate in Yufu, Teacher has solved many cases and participated in many others.”
“It’s merely a few cases.”
“Teacher is really something.”
Receiving no reply, the capital magistrate pursed his lips and spoke again, “Aunty Xie’s case has been concluded and the Supreme Court has also re-entered the case into their records. This official just doesn’t quite understand why the matter of the Yufu disaster funds has not been resolved? Could there have been some crucial clue that has been overlooked?”
Ji Yunshu shook her head. “I’m not sure. The case was handled by His Highness and this one is not well-informed about its details. If Capital Magistrate wishes to know the details about the Yufu relief funds, why not go ask about it personally?”
“No need, no need.” He waved a hand frantically in embarrassment. “Now that even His Majesty has stopped inquiring into this matter, it wouldn’t be too good if this official mentions it in front of His Highness.”
Haiz. Then why did you mention it? Ji Yunshu quirked her lips without speaking. She felt that the capital magistrate was acting a little strange today. And it was a very unusual kind of uncharacteristic behaviour. However, she was busy with the skeleton and really didn’t have the slightest inclination to think about anything else.
Perhaps the Capital Magistrate was really too bored and couldn’t help but say more. He simply grit his teeth and inched forward to look at the collection of scattered but neatly arranged skeletal remains, then gingerly asked, “Teacher, how is the ‘Lin Capital Case’ going?”
“Investigations are still ongoing.”
“How long more do you need to draw the portraits of these skeletons?”
“I don’t know.”
“What would your estimate be?”
Ji Yunshu lifted her gaze and frowned. Even though she was a little annoyed, she still explained as earnestly as always, “Capital Magistrate, you also know that this case happened forty years ago and the victims died in a fire. Thus, in comparison to the remains that had passed merely 2 to 3 years ago, it is too difficult to recreate the portraits of those that have already passed for forty years.
“Even if I had four pairs of hands, I may not be able to finish recreating all the portraits in a short time. Moreover, this is a major case and we cannot be negligent. The tiniest mistake can affect the entire drawing, and eventually cause the rest of the investigation to be much more difficult.” Extremely patient.
The capital magistrate gulped and nodded. Understood! However, a moment later, he opened his mouth again as if he wanted to say something, but hesitated, hemming and hawing instead...
Ji Yunshu drew in a deep breath and simply asked openly, “If the Capital Magistrate has something to say, why not be direct? I’m getting dizzy from you circling round and round the topic.”
The Capital Magistrate’s expression crumpled as his true motivations were bared in the open. The corners of his lips turned down as he heaved another heavy sigh without saying anything.
Ji Yunshu put down the finger bone she was holding and picked up a section of rib bone, turning it left and right. She casually commented, “Forget it if you don’t wish to say anything.”
“Actually... it’s just that someone died last night.”
Eh? Someone died? Ji Yunshu’s hands stopped moving. Damn this occupational hazard. She viciously tamped down on that professional in her heart and asked, “Who?”
“A merchant who had come to the capital to trade, named Gao Meng.”
Ah! Gao Meng? Why did this name seem so familiar? Wait a minute, wasn’t it that person trading tiger pelts she had bumped into on the streets yesterday? How did he die just after entering the capital? She turned her head and asked in puzzlement, “Why would a merchant die for no reason?”
“I don’t know! Moreover...” the Capital Magistrate hesitated again.
“What else is the matter?”
“Truly, nothing escapes Teacher’s eye. There was heavy rain, thunder, and lightning last night. Many homes in the city outskirts experienced flash flooding and collapsed. The entire suburb region is in complete disorder and the residents have all fled elsewhere.”
“Due to that same bout of heavy rain last night, even a dilapidated temple in the suburbs also collapsed. A Buddha statue within it was smashed into pieces.”
Bro, could you please get to the point? Ji Yunshu suppressed her impatience and continued asking, “And then?”
“Nobody could have imagined that underneath that Buddha statue was actually a deep well that emitted a foul stench. When the people that lived near the temple went to investigate and looked down the well, they discovered that there was something at the bottom emitting light and could vaguely make out the form of a person.
“Thus, they made a report to the authorities that very night. This official sent people down...it was actually a dead body. The corpse had been stabbed multiple times. This official investigated and found out that the deceased was the tiger pelt merchant Gao Meng, who had only entered the capital for trade the day before.”
“Since you know the identity of the deceased, you can just continue investigating. The scene of the crime will surely carry traces of the perpetrator; you should be able to find them if you look carefully.”
“That was simple enough. The coroner examined the corpse and concluded that the deceased died last night at xu shi, between 9pm to 11pm, while the time the statue collapsed was at zi shi, between 11pm to 1am. Before that, there must have been people there. However, at xu shi, there was nobody there because it was flooded. Thus, there were no witnesses at all and the flood had washed away any clues. Moreover...” The Capital Magistrate’s face had such a deep frown all his wrinkles had bunched together.
Ji Yunshu seemed to have noticed something. “Was there something else at the bottom of the well?”
The Capital Magistrate replied solemnly, “At the bottom... there was also seven sets of skeletons!”
“That’s right, skeletons. They were trapped in the dried well under the statue along with that corpse.”
“There are bones inside the dried well? The same well that had been concealed under the Buddha statue?” Ji Yunshu repeated, “it appears that that dried well is a hidden miniature burial mound, made specifically for that purpose.”
“What does Teacher Ji mean?”
“It’s...” She paused for a moment to think. I fear that if I really started discussing this case, it would imply that I intend to take over this case. Wouldn’t that mean that I had fallen for the Capital Magistrate’s scheme? No!
She shook her head. “No particular meaning.”
She interrupted him, “Milord, since the statue in the temple has toppled, you should inform the Ministry of Public Works; faced with a corpse, you should also inform the Supreme Court.”
“But Teacher, the bones...”
He was interrupted again. “The ‘Lin Capital Case’ cannot be delayed further. If you would like me to help you investigate, this one is powerless. After all, I cannot split myself into two and am already too busy. Besides, is there nobody who can solve cases in a country as big as Great Lin? Could it be that all the salary issued by the Imperial Court are used to feed idle people?”
The Capital Magistrate was embarrassed and made completely speechless.
Ji Yunshu put down the bones she was holding and walked out of the room as she called back, “Capital Magistrate, you should hurry back. The case sounds urgent.”
The Capital Magistrate remained rooted to the spot, expression turning dark. After a moment, he slapped himself on the cheek. “Blabbermouth.”