Couple of Mirrors – Chapter 39: The Trial Begins
That night, Agent Bai breaks into Xie Yifan’s hospital room.
He fires repeatedly into Xie Yifan’s bed.
He goes over to the bed and lifts up the covers — clearly expecting to see Xie Yifan’s bullet-riddled body — only to find a stack of pillows underneath them instead.
At that exact moment, two nurses (or are they?) burst into the room.
Agent Bai aims his gun at them, but they despatch him handily before he can fire a single bullet.
They handcuff Agent Bai, and remove their disguises. The ‘nurses’ are, of course, Jiang Bin and Chen Yong.
‘Bai Shuxian, you’re under arrest!’ Jiang Bin declares.
It’s the next morning, and a newsboy is doing a brisk trade outside the law courts. ‘Breaking news! Breaking news!’ he shouts. ‘The Chu Huizi murder trial begins today!’
He’s surrounded by customers. ‘Give me a paper!’ ‘Me too!’ ‘I’ll have one too!’
Xu Youyi and the lawyer she’s hired to represent Yan Wei arrive by car, and she’s immediately swamped by reporters. ‘Miss Xu is here!’ someone shouts. ‘It’s Miss Xu!’ calls another person. ‘Do you know the murderer?’ asks a third reporter. ‘I hear you’re close friends with the murderer. Do you plan on shielding her somehow?’ a fourth reporter quizzes her.
Xu Youyi gets out of the car and starts making her way towards the court building. ‘Please answer our questions!’ two reporters call out.
‘Excuse me, please make way,’ her lawyer says, as they push their way through the crowd. ‘Please make way!’
People start filing into the courtroom where the trial is being held. Zhou Heng and his mother are, of course, in attendance.
Police Commander Song is seated at the prosecution’s table.
There’s a call of ‘All rise!’ as the judge enters, and a call of ‘Please be seated’ once the judge has taken his seat. This is followed by a call of ‘Bring in the prisoner!’
Yan Wei, escorted by police officers, makes her way to the courtroom.
Xu Youyi is sitting on a bench just outside the courtroom. She looks up and sees Yan Wei.
Yan Wei stops. Xu Youyi goes over to her.
She rearranges Yan Wei’s braid and straightens the lapels of Yan Wei’s coat.
Then she takes Yan Wei’s hands in hers. ‘There’s no need to be nervous,’ she tells Yan Wei. ‘I’m here.’
They smile at each other…
…then the police officers hustle Yan Wei off to the courtroom, leaving Xu Youyi to gaze after her departing back.
Inside the courtroom, the police escort Yan Wei to the dock and remove her handcuffs.
Commissioner Song rises to give his opening statement. ‘Your Honour,’ he tells the judge. ‘Through our investigations, we have identified Yan Wei as a key suspect in the murder of Chu Huizi. A witness saw Yan Wei stab Chu Huizi. Yan Wei intimidated the witness into silence, in an attempt to escape punishment.’
He gestures at Yan Wei. ‘In addition, her background and origins are unknown, she is an excellent shot, and she has very strong counter-surveillance skills. She also refused to co-operate with us after her arrest. These are the conclusions we have drawn from our investigations, Your Honour.’
The judge addresses Yan Wei. ‘Yan Wei, you have been charged with the murder of Chu Huizi at Jinhua Hotel. Do you plead guilty?’
‘I do not,’ says Yan Wei firmly. ‘I didn’t do it.’
‘Very well,’ says the judge. ‘I will now call the prosecution’s witness Mrs Zhu to give evidence before the court.’
‘Call the witness!’ shouts one of the court clerks.
Mrs Zhu, the hotel attendant, enters the courtroom and takes her place at the witness stand. ‘It was her!’ she declares, looking at Yan Wei. ‘I saw her kill Miss Chu Huizi with my own eyes!’
‘When Miss Xu came into the room, she wanted to kill Miss Xu as well,’ Mrs Zhu elaborates. ‘I screamed, and Miss Xu fainted. I wanted to look for help, but she grabbed hold of me and threatened me! She said if I told anyone that she was the murderer, she’d kill me too!’ She conjures up an image of Yan Wei — with devil’s horns, no less — threatening her gleefully.
‘I did have to wrestle with my conscience at the time,’ Mrs Zhu goes on, shivering visibly. ‘But the sight of Miss Chu Huizi’s body was too terrifying. In the end, I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone about her, and she escaped.’
In the dock, Yan Wei smirks. What terrible acting.
She pictures herself, devil’s horns and all, strangling Mrs Zhu expertly. If I really had wanted to kill you, would you still be standing there making a fool out of yourself?
‘When everyone else came rushing onto the scene of crime,’ Mrs Zhu concludes, ‘I was too scared to say anything. After that, I came to regret my decision, so I decided to report everything to the police.’
The judge turns back to Yan Wei. ‘What does the accused have to say in response?’
‘I have never been to Jinhua Hotel,’ says Yan Wei.
‘Don’t try to weasel out of this!’ shouts Commissioner Song.
‘Order!’ the judge commands. He continues his questioning of Yan Wei. ‘Do you have an alibi, Yan Wei? Is there someone who can prove that you were not at the scene of the crime?’
‘I was home alone that day,’ says Yan Wei. ‘There were no witnesses.’
‘Your Honour,’ Commissioner Song interjects. ‘I think there’s no need to waste everyone’s time by giving credence to her excuses. We’ve had Yan Wei under surveillance for some time. Her identity card is a forged, and she doesn’t have a permit for the gun she carries. Nothing is known about her background, and doesn’t have friends or a social life, the way normal people do—’
‘Objection!’ calls Yan Wei’s lawyer. ‘The prosecution’s accusations against Miss Yan Wei are baseless and speculative.’
‘Objection sustained,’ the judge declares.
Yan Wei’s lawyer walks over to stand by the dock. ‘Your Honour, Miss Yan Wei has only been living in Shanghai for six months. Before that, she and her parents lived on the high seas. She had always planned to get her identity papers in order, but our government has made the process much too long and complex for an orphan girl who is new to the city.’
He glances sharply at Commissioner Song. ‘Isn’t this something our government should be reflecting on?’
Commissioner Song rises angrily to his feet. ‘You—!’
He’s cut off by another call of ‘Order!’ from the judge.
Did Youyi tell him to say all this? Yan Wei wonders. She really is a good writer. I almost believe it myself.
Yan Wei’s lawyer continues to harangue Commissioner Song. ‘She couldn’t even get hold of an identity card! How did you expect her to be able to get a firearms permit? And as for claiming that she’s a suspect because she doesn’t have a normal social life, that’s absurd!’
He leans forward. ‘Please tell us, Commissioner Song, what counts as a “normal social life”?’
Commissioner Song doesn’t answer, so the lawyer continues to hold forth. ‘She’s a gentle girl, and a friendly neighbour. She runs her photography studio alone, and she has many customers including repeat customers. However, she has been regularly harassed by local gangsters, who demand protection money from her. That’s why she bought a gun — for self-defence.’
In her own imagination, Yan Wei smiles angelically. So that’s the kind of girl I am.
‘There’s nothing wrong with this, is there?’ her lawyer asks the jury.
‘It makes sense!’ two members of the jury pipe up.
Yan Wei’s lawyer continues to wax lyrical. ‘She buys pancakes and noodles from the stall at the corner of her street every day. Doesn’t that count as part of a normal social life?’
This part is true, Yan Wei concedes.
The lawyer gestures at Commissioner Song. ‘You’re not telling me that a “normal social life” means having rich friends like Commissioner Song? If Yan Wei did have friends like those, she wouldn’t even be in the dock!’
‘Counsel for the defence!’ snaps the judge. ‘Please refrain from making irrelevant observations!’
‘Yes, Your Honour,’ says the lawyer.
‘You may now cross-examine the witness,’ the judge tells him.
Yan Wei’s lawyer turns to Mrs Zhu. ‘Mrs Zhu, isn’t it?’ he asks. ‘You claim you witnessed the murder of Chu Huizi, and you claim this young lady wanted to kill Miss Xu. You claim that Miss Xu fainted after you screamed. You claim that you gave in to this young lady’s threats after you wrestled with your conscience, because you were afraid for your life. Is that right?’
‘Yes!’ Mrs Zhu declares.
‘But according to your colleagues, everyone on that floor heard you scream that day,’ the lawyer continues. ‘The colleague who was first to arrive on the scene rushed there from your break room. The break room is very close to Room 8, where the body was found — you can get from one to the other in just twenty seconds!’
He leans forward. ‘Please explain how you managed to scream, try to run away, get caught by Yan Wei and succumb to her threats in the short space of twenty seconds? Oh, that’s right, you wrestled with your conscience as well. That must have been a very short internal conflict indeed!’
‘That’s not what happened!’ wails Mrs Zhu. ‘It was after the whole incident that Yan Wei threatened me!’
‘She’s contradicting herself!’ the lawyer points out. ‘How could anyone be convicted on the basis of such inconsistent testimony?’ He turns to the judge. ‘Your Honour, allow me to call another witness — Miss Xu Youyi!’
‘Permission granted,’ says the judge. ‘Call the witness Xu Youyi!’
Xu Youyi enters the courtroom. As she passes the dock, she and Yan Wei exchange a glance. She smiles.
Please view the original manhua here.