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Published at 5th of June 2019 08:35:01 PM


Chapter 24

In Chapter 24 of The Youthful You Who Was So Beautiful, we continue with the fallout of Bei Ye’s arrest . With the mounting evidence pointing irrefutably towards Bei Ye as the horrendous raincoat man, and everyone believing wholeheartedly in Bei Ye’s guilt, will Zheng Yi’s stubborn determination to get to the bottom of the case help to forge a new path for Bei Ye and Chen Nian?


 

“I know this person . ” Li Xiang anxiously indicated towards Bei Ye’s photograph . “It’s him!”

“You’ve seen this person before?”

“He’s been stalking Chen Nian for some time now . ”

Zheng Yi exchanged a glance with Senior Yang and the form teacher . The form teacher confirmed with Li Xiang once more, “You’ve taken a close look at the photograph? Are you sure it’s him?”

“Of course I’ve looked at the photograph closely . I’ve seen him twice, and on both occasions, he was acting in a furtive and suspicious manner whilst trailing behind Chen Nian . Chen Nian didn’t even realize that she was being stalked!” Li Xiang launched into a detailed account of the two stalking incidents .

When Li Xiang concluded his testimony, Zheng Yi nodded at Li Xiang, indicating that Li Xiang was free to leave .

Senior Yang opened his notebook and began recording the information which they have obtained from Li Xiang . With Li Xiang’s testimony, the police officers now have a new piece of objective evidence on hand which pointed towards Bei Ye’s guilt .

Afterwards, Xu Miao was summoned to provide her testimony as well . Xu Miao mentioned that she had seen Bei Ye once at the entrance of the school – he had been brazenly staring at me, his lips curved upwards in a deprecating smile . The special attention showered onto her by Bei Ye had caused Xu Miao to wonder if Bei Ye was interested in her .

Xu Miao concluded, “He must have been looking for his next target… . ”

As the police officers continued the questioning of the various students, they began to amass an increasing number of eyewitness accounts testifying that Bei Ye had continuously hovered around the area surrounding the school, and that he was frequently found staring at various girls . In some instances, Bei Ye had even made several attempts to stalk such girls .

The news of the arrest of the raincoat man spread like wildfire within the student population . When the students who had been selected and summoned for questioning by the police officers returned to their respective classrooms, they would be quickly surrounded by the wave of students clamoring for greater amounts of detail and information regarding the arrest of the raincoat man .

In the midst of all of the hullabaloo, Chen Nian sat quietly at her desk and focused on her revision . It was as though she couldn’t hear all the excited and noisy chatter around her . Chen Nian glanced at the calendar – there were only two days left till the graduation exams; but, at this precise point in time, she could no longer muster any excitement or enthusiasm for the graduation exams .

All of a sudden, she overheard her classmates’ discussion about the raincoat man .

“The raincoat man is currently being detained at the police station, but he’s not allowed to have any visitors . ”

“Oh well . It’s not like he has any parents, so there isn’t anyone who would be the least bit interested in visiting him . ”

“What? What happened to his mum? Did she pass away too?”

A classmate let out a cold, derisive chortle before responding, “Now that I think about it – isn’t there a saying ‘Like father, like son,’? Little wonder the son of a rapist turned out to be a rapist . ”

“And the son even went to get himself an upgrade – into a murderer!”

Ah, speech is truly one of the most amazing things on earth . Although the classmates were commenting on the case in quiet, hushed tones, like civilized and educated people, the callous and cruel words which were actually utilized served as knives and daggers, easily chilling one to the bone .

Unable to bring herself to hear more, Chen Nian hurriedly stood up and began making her way out of the classroom . Just as she was about to exit, Li Xiang stepped directly into her line of sight . Walking towards Chen Nian, Li Xiang heaved a huge sigh of relief, “Chen Nian, do you remember me telling you that there was a boy who was following you? To think you didn’t believe me then!”

Chen Nian’s face had turned ashen .


The entire school knew that she was a poor, fragile victim who had nearly gotten raped by the raincoat man . Wave after wave of students came to offer words of comfort and encouragement; however, it was also these very students who would, after offering Chen Nian words of comfort, commence their inquisition about the details of her ‘kidnapping’ and her subsequent rescue .

The care, sympathy and concern which her fellow schoolmates had for her plight was real; but at the very same time, the curiosity and prying nature of the very same schoolmates was also real .

Chen Nian refused to answer any of the questions which had been posed to her . Xiao Mi was unable to bear Chen Nian being battered by unending questions, and frequently served as a bodyguard responsible for asking all such ‘reporters’ to leave Chen Nian alone .

Li Xiang was about to comment on the case once more when he caught Xiao Mi glaring at him from behind Chen Nian’s back . Belatedly realizing his lack of tact, Li Xiang shut his mouth awkwardly before re-opening his mouth to apologise to Chen Nian .

Chen Nian paid Li Xiang no heed, and simply strode out of the classroom .

However, Chen Nian was simply unable to find a safe and peaceful haven no matter where she went – just as Chen Nian stepped out of the classroom, she spotted Zheng Yi, Senior Yang and other police officers right down the corridor, exiting from the makeshift interrogation room that was her form teacher’s office . The police officers appear to have spotted her as well – it was too late to hide .

Zheng Yi gestured to Senior Yang and his fellow police officers, indicating for them to return to the police station before him . Zheng Yi walked over to Chen Nian, and took a close look at Chen Nian . To him, Chen Nian looked like her usual calm and collected self . Although she didn’t look particularly bright and energetic, she didn’t look especially down and outcast either .

As per his usual routine, Zheng Yi inquired about the state of Chen Nian’s revision . Chen Nian responded to each of Zheng Yi’s questions slowly, without a single inflection in her voice .

Finally, Zheng Yi ran out of questions to ask . “I know it’s hard, but try your best not to let the recent incident affect you too much . Focus on preparing for the upcoming graduation exams, but at the same time, make sure that you’re not giving yourself too much pressure . ”

Chen Nian lowered her head and nodded slightly .

Zheng Yi was suddenly transported to the time when he fetched Chen Nian to and fro from school on a daily basis . During that period of time, he was usually the one who continually and tirelessly generated various streams of conversation, whilst Chen Nian simply nodded or shook her head in response . Yes, even during that period of time, Chen Nian was not someone who frequently vocalized her thoughts or responses . But the silent Chen Nian then, is different from the silent Chen Nian now . During that period of time, Zheng Yi could always sense Chen Nian’s feelings of contentment and repressed happiness despite her silence; however, the present Chen Nian seemed to be a stale pool of water, her heart incapable of any emotion .

Lowering his head, Zheng Yi fixed his gentle gaze onto Chen Nian’s face . Chen Nian’s ponytail was no longer as neatly combed as it previously was; there were many tiny, small strands of stray hair which escaped Chen Nian’s rubber band, causing Chen Nian to resemble a drooping sunflower .

Sensing that Chen Nian didn’t seem inclined to carry on the conversation, Zheng Yi bade his farewell, “I’ll be making a move then; I’ll treat you to a meal once your graduation exams are over . ”

However, Chen Nian spoke up just then . “That person…”

Chen Nian bit her lips hesitatingly . Zheng Yi didn’t rush Chen Nian in the slightest, and simply waited patiently for Chen Nian to gather her thoughts .

“Will he . . be incarcerated?”

“Definitely . In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s just a minor, he could be jailed for life, or even dealt the death penalty . ” Locking his eyes with Chen Nian, Zheng Yi replied affirmatively .

“That’s… a pity then . ”

Zheng Yi continued reassuring Chen Nian, “Although Wei Cai is dead, I will continue to keep an eye on Luo Ting and the rest of the group . ”

Chen Nian didn’t respond, her pale face blank and expressionless .

As Zheng Yi walked down the stairway to the ground floor, he couldn’t help but feel waves of self-contempt wash over him .

As the police officer who had been tasked with resolving the “conflict” between Wei Cai and Zeng Hao, and the bullying case of Hu Xiao Die, he was unable to discipline and restrain Wei Cai, Luo Ting and their group of friends from perpetuating further abuse, no matter how hard he tried . Even now, he was still powerless – indeed; it was not him that succeeding in restraining Luo Ting and her group of friends, rather, it was Wei Cai’s death that jarred them into obedience .


“Officer Zheng!” A bright, cheery voice rang out . Zheng Yi turned his head, and saw Zeng Hao jogging towards him .

Zeng Hao had a very good impression of Zheng Yi, and greeted him cheerfully . Zheng Yi greeted her in return, and encouraged her to study hard for the upcoming graduation exams . At the end of their conversation, Zheng Yi brought up Chen Nian once more, “How is Chen Nian coping during this period of time? Has she been very affected by the incident?”

“Well, anyone who has been through such a traumatic incident would surely feel affected by it . It’s just that Chen Nian has always been rather quiet and reserved, so it’s easy to mistake her post-incident silence for normalcy . ” After mulling over Chen Nian’s stoic nature, Zeng Hao added, “Chen Nian is a person who is very adept at masking her own emotions . ”

Zheng Yi nodded his head to indicate that he understood what Zeng Hao was trying to express . “Since you both are classmates, and graduation exams are nearing, I hope you’d be able to encourage Chen Nian from time to time, and inject some positivity into her life . I’m sure you’re well placed to offer her words of support, since both of you are survivors of bullying incidents . ”

“I know . I stand together with Chen Nian . ” Zeng Hao promised Zheng Yi without a moment’s hesitation . “But, the bullying which Wei Cai inflicted onto Chen Nian didn’t seem to traumatize Chen Nian very much . ”

“Why do you say that?”

“Based on my gut feel, I guess . ” Zeng Hao responded . “Before Wei Cai went missing, there was a period of time when Wei Cai and her group of friends were constantly targeting Chen Nian . This was post my ‘reconciliation’ with Wei Cai . At that time, I felt extremely guilty and miserable and apologized to Chen Nian . However, Chen Nian told me that there was someone who was protecting her . ”

Stunned, Zheng Yi asked, “When did Chen Nian say this?”

Pangs of guilt and sorrow gnawed incessantly at Zheng Yi’s heart . He didn’t know whether Chen Nian was referring to him when she told Zeng Hao that she had a protector, but he was certain that he had failed tragically in his mission to protect her from harm .

He could clearly feel the intangible defenses which Chen Nian now erected against him .

He knew that he was merely steps away from concluding and resolving the entire case, but he couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that, despite all the damning evidence, despite all the clues that pointed towards Bei Ye’s guilt, something wasn’t quite right .

Finally exiting the building, Zheng Yi stood under the blazing hot sun and took a deep breath .

Excited, youthful laughter rang out from the numerous classrooms located within the Mathematics Building .

Raising his head, Zheng Yi could see the innumerable students warring with their Mathematics textbooks, their eyes darting rapidly between their textbooks and the practice questions which they were tackling . He could see scrap paper drifting through the wind, each scrap paper filled to the brim with the students’ scribbling .

The youths laughed with abandon, teasing each other without a care in the world . Ah, the greatness of youth .

Zheng Yi conducted another search on Bei Ye’s house . However, despite the hours of searching, he was unable to obtain any other new pieces of evidence other than a few strands of what appeared to be Chen Nian’s hair . However, given that Chen Nian had been forcefully kidnapped by Bei Ye to his home, the discovery of Chen Nian’s hair was unsurprising to say the least .

Zheng Yi even leafed through Bei Ye’s books – Bei Ye didn’t own many books, and of those which he owned, a large part of them were comic books .

Based on the limited selection of books at Bei Ye’s house, Zheng Yi could easily infer the types of books which Bei Ye generally read . Looking at the array of books placed before him, Zheng Yi could feel his niggling suspicion, that Bei Ye had purposefully selected the marsh as a burial spot in order to preserve the corpse, starting to lessen . Bei Ye was simply a kid after all, and could have easily overlooked the fact that the marsh would serve as a natural protective seal over Wei Cai’s corpse . Maybe, just maybe, Bei Ye had simply selected the location by chance as per his confession .

Zheng Yi suddenly thought of the time when Senior Yang told him about a case about a murderer who had opted to bury his victim’s corpse with asphalt in a bid to cover up his crime . Little did the murderer know that the asphalt would help to substantially slow down the process of the corpse’s decay; eventually, the evidence which had been preserved on the corpse pointed towards the murderer’s guilt and resulted in his capture .

Indeed – although the net of Heaven has large meshes, nothing escapes it . In reality, criminals are frequently caught offguard by the unexpected closing of the net of Heaven and sudden retribution .

Just like Bei Ye in the present case – when he selected the marsh as a burial spot, he simply focused on the fact that there was little to no human traffic in the area surrounding the marsh, and failed to see how the marsh could also function as a preservative .


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Just as Zheng Yi returned to the police station, he bumped into Senior Yang leading the first two rape victims out of the station . When the two victims were out of earshot, Zheng Yi asked, “How did the criminal identification exercise go?”

“Well, both victims said that Bei Ye’s build is really similar to the person who had raped them . ”

Zheng Yi paused momentarily, “Can I take a look at the transcript of their criminal identification exercise?”

Zheng Yi quickly surveyed the transcript of the first two rape victims, and saw that both transcripts merely read as follows: … It seems to be him… It was quite chaotic during that period of time, so I’m not able to say for sure… After all, the incident occurred quite some time back… . his build is quite similar to the rapist…”

Zheng Yi emphasized, “Both victims were only able to say that Bei Ye “seems” to be the rapist . ”

Senior Yang gazed at Zheng Yi pensively, before hooking his arm around Bei Ye’s shoulders . “Zheng Yi – you seem to have a couple of reservations in respect of the present case . ”

Zheng Yi replied Senior Yang truthfully, “I just find the smooth progression of the case really strange . We encountered so much difficulty assembling the clues and narrowing our suspect pool for the first part of the case; only to experience the total opposite during the later half of the case, with huge amounts of evidence being unleashed upon us like running tap water . ”

“It’s just your lack of experience . ” Senior Yang said matter-of-factly . “There are many cases in this world which we are unable to explain with common sense . There are suspects who are so hardy that we are unable to obtain any clues no matter how many times we interrogate them, or how many times we search the various crime scenes . Conversely, there are other suspects who possess a lackadaisical attitude towards their crimes, and are willing to confess in entirety the moment the police officers arrest them . ”

“I know that . Everybody has a different attitude in life . ” Zheng Yi responded . “But Senior Yang, I just can’t seem to shake this feeling that we should conduct a thorough sweep of the hill behind the school building . After all, we were only halfway through the previous sweep when we got interrupted by the sudden capture and arrest of Bei Ye . ”

“You want to conduct a sweep of the entire hill?” Senior Yang raised his eyebrows at Zheng Yi questioningly . “We brought Bei Ye to the hill behind the school building three days ago, and he has already pinpointed the exact location where he murdered Wei Cai . Now, our colleagues in the forensics team have excavated and analysed a portion of the blood-stained soil located within the area pinpointed by Bei Ye, and have informed us that such soil contained a strand of Bei Ye’s hair . Bei Ye must have unknowingly dropped that strand of hair into the soil when he was trying to cover up Wei Cai’s blood stains . Don’t you see? The evidence is damning!”

Zheng Yi stared at Senior Yang with his mouth agape; try as he might, he was unable to formulate a respectable rebuttal to Senior Yang’s lengthy dissertation . At long last, Zheng Yi muttered to himself, “But, what if there are other locations on the hill which we should be searching?”

Failing to catch Zheng Yi’s muttering, Senior Yang clarified, “Sorry, what ws that?”

“Nothing . ”

Senior Yang could tell that Zheng Yi was still feeling uncomfortable about the ‘conclusion’ of the case, and continued his persuasion . “In addition, we managed to locate the knife that had been thrown into the river . The forensics team have confirmed that the wound found on Wei Cai’s body matched the knife perfectly . However, because the knife had been abandoned in the lriver for a long period of time, we are unable to find any other additional pieces of evidence of the knife aside from some minor blood stains . The forensics team is currently conducting an analysis on the blood stains – we are hoping to be able to determine whether the blood stains are human blood, and, with any luck, we’d be able to further determine the blood type of such blood stains . — Bei Ye was caught in the act trying to rape Chen Nian; and on top of that, he has fully confessed to his crimes, so why do you still have so many reservations about Bei Ye being the criminal whom we have been looking for?”

“There’s still one last thing which I’m still unable to fully understand . ”

“What is it?”

“Bei Ye is so meticulous that he even considered the tiniest and minutest of details when committing his crimes – such as removing Wei Cai of her clothes in order to avoid giving the police officers clues which pointed towards the season and the time period when Wei Cai was killed . So why did he keep the blood-stained shirt and the raincoat in his possession?”

“He didn’t keep them, remember? He tried to dispose both the blood-stained shirt and the raincoat, but we managed to locate both items in the rubbish bins a few blocks away from the abandoned steel mill . Both items were partially burnt as well, and our forensics team put in a great deal of effort to recover whatever minimal evidence they could . ”

“But… don’t you think the items were too hastily disposed? After all, they were located merely a few blocks away from Bei Ye’s home . ”

“I questioned Bei Ye on this as well . Bei Ye explained that he had accidentally missed out the blood-stained shirt when he was initially destroying the evidence relating to Wei Cai’s murder . When he subsequently realised his mistake, a long period of time had already passed since the commission of the crime . As the police officers didn’t seem to be getting any closer to discovering the identity of the criminal, he began to let down his guard and took the convenient option of disposing the blood-stained shirt and raincoat in the vicinity of his house . ”

This explanation made sense as well .

However, Zheng Yi just couldn’t get rid of the unshakable feeling that there was something off about Bei Ye leaving behind such critical pieces of evidence, instead of destroying all the relevant evidence in their entirety .


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But, perhaps Senior Yang was right . He was simply overthinking things .

The case was soon to be closed .

The rainy season had now passed completely, and the weather was getting hotter by the day .

On the 7th of June, the temperature reached an all-time high at 38 degrees Celcius . In order to help the students to focus on their graduation exams, the school maximized the fan speed of the air-conditioners and fans in the examination hall .

Each and every single police officer was diligently working towards the closure of Bei Ye’s case, with the exception of a sole police officer – Zheng Yi . Zheng Yi commenced a fresh investigation of the passersby who witnessed Chen Nian being bullied by Wei Cai, and the male youth who had disappeared along with Wei Cai . Zheng Yi’s gut feeling told him that Wei Cai’s disappearance was inexplicably linked to the bullying incident; but, unfortunately, the entire bullying incident seemed to be hidden in a misty shroud, the details hazy and unclear .

In addition, Zheng Yi also began an earnest investigation into Bei Ye’s circle of friends .

The classmates in Bei Ye’s class had long gone their separate ways, whilst Bei Ye’s teachers had nothing but poor reviews and critiques of Bei Ye’s performance . The description of Bei Ye rendered by his teachers fit the criminal profile provided by Senior Yang to a tee – isolated, cold, emotionless .

But Zheng Yi still managed to locate a handful of Bei Ye’s classmates, as well as the lady at the welfare center who had originally been responsible from Bei Ye – and from them, Zheng Yi was ale to discover that Bei Ye had two friends who were closer to him than the rest: Da Kang, and Lai Zi .

Lai Zi had gone to Guangdong, whilst Da Kang remained in Xi Cheng, having managed to find a job in a car repair shop .

8th of June . Zheng Yi appeared at the entrance of the car repair shop, bearing the full brunt of the unforgiving heat of the afternoon sun . When Da Kang finally understood the reason for Zheng Yi’s visit, his face turned livid red, and he started to chase Zheng Yi unceremoniously out of the car repair shop . “All you police officers are just biased against people like us!”

“What rapist? Bei Ye would never do such a thing! The criminal profile which you speak of – I know a ton of people who would easily fit into that profile, so why don’t you arrest all of them and throw them in jail as well? It’s because of Bei Ye’s parents, innit? Just because Bei Ye’s father is a criminal, does it mean that Bei Ye is a criminal as well?!”

Zheng Yi placed his hands on Da Kang’s shoulders in a bid to calm him down . “Bei Ye has already admitted to being the raincoat man . ”

Da Kang replied without missing a beat, “Even so, that must be a result of you guys pressuring him into admitting something he didn’t do!”

“This isn’t the ancient times – police officers are not allowed to utilise torture when interrogating suspects . Look, I’m only here to meet you because I wish to discover the truth of the entire matter . ”

Unfortunately, despite Da Kang’s insistence that it was impossible for Bei Ye to be the raincoat man, Zheng Yi was unable to obtain any objective evidence from Da Kang which pointed towards Bei Ye’s innocence . Zheng Yi even asked Da Kang for his whereabouts during the specific time periods during which Bei Ye had purportedly committed the various crimes, but Da Kang had not been with Bei Ye during such time periods, and was therefore unable to provide an alibi for Bei Ye .

Undeterred, Zheng Yi tried another line of questioning . “What about the other friend named Lai Qing? Could you ring him up for me?”

“Lai Zi?” Da Kang gave the metal screw a good, hard twist . “I’ve lost contact with him a long time ago . He stopped talking to me after we quarreled . ” Da Kang said crossly .

Zheng Yi had a rather vivid impression of Lai Zi, as Lai Qing had been one of the twenty, thirty suspects whose characteristics corresponded with Senior Yang’s criminal profile of the suspect in the present case, and Senior Yang had recorded and compiled his basic characteristics, such as his height and his weight into a small suspects manual . Come to think of it, Lai Qing, Da Kang, and Bei Ye all had similar build .

Zheng Yi stepped out of the car repair shop, his heart heavy from the total lack of progress . Just then, a strange, odd, thought flashed through his mind . Hurriedly returning to the car repair shop, he fished out a digital photograph and displayed it on his mobile phone . Flashing the photograph in front of Da Kang, he inquired, “Have you ever seen this girl before?”

Da Kang wiped the beads of sweat off his brow, inadvertently smudging his forehead with a large, black, streak of oil . Da Kang narrowed his eyes, staring intently at the photograph . On Zheng Yi’s mobile screen, there was a photograph of a young, skinny girl dressed in her clean, white school uniform, her hair swept up in a neat ponytail .

“I’m not entirely sure whether it’s her . ”

“Her?”

“Yup . I think I’ve seen this girl before . ” Da Kang responded . “Xiao Bei said that he owed her monet . A lot of money . ”



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