Couple of Mirrors – Chapter 40: Identifying the Real Murderer
Xu Youyi takes her place at the witness stand.
‘Miss Xu, you were also present at Jinhua Hotel on the day of the murder, weren’t you?’ asks Yan Wei’s lawyer.
‘Yes,’ says Xu Youyi.
‘Did you see Miss Yan Wei at the scene of the crime?’ asks the lawyer.
‘No,’ says Xu Youyi. ‘I never laid eyes on Yan Wei while I was at Jinhua Hotel, nor did I see her kill anyone. Everything I say here today is true, and I’m willing to bear legal responsibility for my testimony.’
The lawyer asks another question. ‘According to the oral statement you gave to the police, you saw a third person at the scene of the crime. Is that true?’
‘Yes,’ Xu Youyi replies. ‘I didn’t see his face, but based on his figure, I’m sure it was a man.’
‘So you don’t think it could have been a tall, thin woman, like Miss Yan Wei?’ asks the lawyer.
‘No,’ says Xu Youyi.
The lawyer turns to the judge. ‘Your Honour, those are all my questions.’
The judge looks at Xu Youyi. ‘Very well. Xu Youyi, have you said everything you wanted to say? Do you have anything to add?’
‘Yes!’ Xu Youyi declares. ‘I know who killed Chu Huizi.’
This sets the whole courtroom abuzz.
‘Chu Huizi’s murderer,’ Xu Youyi continues, ‘is my ex-husband — Zhou Heng!’
There’s more commotion. ‘What’s going on?’ asks someone in the public gallery. ‘How is that possible?’ demands another onlooker.
Zhou Heng stares speechlessly at Xu Youyi as she produces a copy of the article about Chu Huizi’s secret rendezvous from Dagong Bao. ‘First of all,’ she says, ‘Zhou Heng and Chu Huizi were lovers. Two months ago, a reporter from Jing Bao photographed Chu Huizi meeting secretly with an unnamed man. The photograph published in the paper shows only the man’s back. Since then, I’ve managed to track down the reporter. As it turns out, he also took some photographs which show the mystery man’s face, but he was pressured into withholding them from publication.’
Xu Youyi hands a stack of photographs to the judge. ‘Here are the rest of the photographs which were taken by that reporter.’
The judge scrutinises the photographs.
They clearly show Chu Huizi and Zhou Heng looking rather intimate together.
The judge looks up. ‘Even though these photographs might show that the two of them had a romantic relationship, it still doesn’t prove that Zhou Heng was the murderer.’
‘Three people who were at the scene of the crime that night had some sort of entanglement with Chu Huizi,’ Xu Youyi explains. ‘Myself, Cheng Shuangcheng and Zhou Heng.’
(A little chart in the same panel reminds the reader of how these four characters relate to each other. Chu Huizi and Zhou Heng were secret lovers; Chu Huizi and Cheng Shuangcheng were publicly known to be ex-lovers; Zhou Heng and Xu Youyi were husband and wife; Chu Huizi and Xu Youyi were literary rivals; and Cheng Shuangcheng had attempted to harass Xu Youyi that night.)
‘Number one,’ Xu Youyi goes on, ‘the police cleared me of suspicion after examining the evidence at the scene of the crime and verifying the relationship between Chu Huizi and Cheng Shuangcheng. Number two, on the day he was arrested, Cheng Shuangcheng died in a traffic collision which was meant to silence him, so that clears him of suspicion as well.’
We get a flashback to Chen Shuangcheng lying dead in the wreckage of the police vehicle.
‘That only leaves Zhou Heng,’ Xu Youyi continues. ‘On the night of the murder, Zhou Heng asked me for a reconciliation. I refused.’ We get a flashback to Zhou Heng telling Xu Youyi, ‘Youyi, must you be so cruel?’
‘Chu Huizi saw all this,’ Xu Youyi continues, ‘which is why she came over to taunt me. I didn’t know they were lovers, at the time.’ We get a flashback to Chu Huizi telling her, ‘How much more shameless can you get? You used your connections to make sure that your book was released on the same day as mine!’
‘Now that I know they were lovers, everything is clear,’ Xu Youyi continues. ‘Why don’t we put all the clues together, and see where that leads. After Chu Huizi saw Zhou Heng pleading with me, she must have started a fight with him. Zhou Heng, frustrated, must have stabbed Chu Huizi either accidentally or deliberately.’
In Xu Youyi’s imagination, we see Chu Huizi grabbing hold of Zhou Heng and demanding, ‘Why are you still begging her for a reconciliation even after she’s made it clear that she wants a divorce? What do you take me for?’ Then Zhou Heng grabs a knife and stabs Chu Huizi in the chest.
‘While Zhou Heng was hiding in the room,’ Xu Youyi continues, ‘he must have seen me barge in. So he decided to take advantage of that. He knocked me unconscious and placed the murder weapon in my hand. Then he turned up to “rescue” me from my predicament.’
Yan Wei listens to all this, amazed. In her imagination, she tells a very self-satisfied Xu Youyi, ‘You shouldn’t be writing sentimental novels! You should be writing detective novels instead!’
In the courtroom, Xu Youyi catches Yan Wei’s eye, and smiles.
A commotion breaks out in the courtroom again. Shouts of ‘Oh my god!’ and ‘So it looks like Zhou Heng really killed her?’ ring out in the public gallery.
Zhou Heng, furious, rises to his feet. ‘Xu Youyi! You’re talking nonsense!’
The judge bangs his gavel. ‘Order!’
Xu Youyi addresses him. ‘Your Honour, I have a witness who can corroborate everything I just said.’
‘Call the witness!’ cries the court clerk.
A man we haven’t seen before gives his testimony. ‘My name is Zhang San, and I’m an attendant at Jinhua Hotel. I can confirm that Zhou Heng bribed Mrs Zhu into giving false testimony. I heard it all myself!’
‘Nonsense!’ Mrs Zhu shouts from the public gallery. ‘You’re the one who’s been taking bribes. You’re slandering me!’
‘Silence!’ orders the judge.
‘Since you’re here, Mr Zhou,’ the judge continues, once the commotion has died down, ‘what do you have to say in response to Xu Youyi’s accusations?’
Zhou Heng stands up again, buttoning his jacket. ‘Ah. I never imagined my own wife would slander me in this way, in these surroundings. Youyi, have you really forgotten everything we shared together as husband and wife, just for the sake of another person?’
‘I’m simply stating the truth,’ says Xu Youyi.
‘The truth?’ says Zhou Heng. ‘Very well. I’ll tell you what the truth is.’
He gestures at Yan Wei. ‘The truth is, nothing is known about Yan Wei’s background, and she’s a suspect in two murder cases. You found out what was going on between me and Miss Chu, so you hired her to kill Miss Chu. Then you deliberately led the police to conclude that the murderer was a man, so that you could clear yourself of suspicion!’
‘Mr Zhou,’ Xu Youyi responds calmly, ‘your logic is flawed. I had already announced my intention to divorce you before the crime took place. Why would I feel jealous about a man I had already given up on, much less order his lover to be killed?’
‘Xu Youyi,’ says Zhou Heng, ‘you’ve accused me of being unfaithful in our marriage. But what about you? What about your sordid little affair with Xie Yifan? Aren’t you going to admit to that?’
‘Please do not bring up matters which are irrelevant to the case,’ the judge reminds him sternly.
‘This isn’t irrelevant,’ Zhou Heng insists. ‘Xie Yifan was shot a few days ago, and Miss Xu suspects me of having hired an assassin to get rid of him. That’s why she’s making up all these lies now — to get back at me!’
‘Ah, Mr Zhou,’ says Xu Youyi. ‘I’m getting really worried now about your logical thinking skills. Rather than listening to you spout rubbish, I think we should call our final witness.’
Jiang Bin bursts into the courtroom at this point, a handcuffed Agent Bai in tow. ‘I’m Detective Jiang Bin of the Shanghai police’s Third Investigation Team,’ he says. ‘Your Honour, please grant me permission to admit a new witness — Bai Shuxian!’
Xu Youyi looks triumphant; Zhou Heng looks like he’s in shock.
The reporters gathered outside the law courts surge towards Yan Wei once she steps into view. Their cameras click, flashbulbs going off. ‘How did you manage to get off?’ asks one reporter.
Yan Wei holds up a hand to shield her face. The cameras continue clicking. ‘Please answer our questions!’ calls one reporter. ‘Has some member of the Shanghai elite bailed you out?’
Xu Youyi, who has just emerged from the building, reaches for Yan Wei’s hand.
She entwines her fingers with Yan Wei’s.
‘She doesn’t need the protection of any elites,’ Xu Youyi tells the assembled reporters. ‘Her innocence has been proven.’
‘Miss Xu?’ asks one of the reporters. ‘Are you shielding her?’ asks another reporter.
Xu Youyi ignores them as she leads Yan Wei through the crowd.
Xu Youyi looks back at Yan Wei. ‘Come on. We’re going home.’
Ever so slightly, Yan Wei smiles.
Please view the original manhua here.