Couple of Mirrors – Chapter 43: Rashomon (ft Suitcase)
‘I knew it!’ Jiang Bin exclaims, as he looks down at the rifle in the suitcase.
He flashes back to what Xu Youyi told him at the cafe: ‘In addition, when Zhou Heng came by the studio to give me the divorce papers a few days ago, he left a suitcase behind. I went to return it to him, but in the process, I discovered that he was conspiring with Agent Bai. Agent Bai had previously tried to kill me by drugging me and and driving the car I was in into the lake. He was also the one who tried to shoot Xie Yifan on the bridge the other day.’
Xu Youyi happened to mention that Zhou Heng was the one who left the suitcase behind at the studio, he muses. But even if Zhou Heng did have a motive to kill Zhang Wan, Agent Bai — whom he hired — doesn’t look much like the mysterious person I exchanged blows with that night.
Did Xu Youyi deliberately lie to me about the suitcase, while making it seem like a passing comment? he wonders. If that’s the case, she’s a terrifying person indeed.
He picks up the suitcase and heads out of his office. If I want to get to the bottom of this, I should start by questioning Zhou Heng and seeing how he reacts.
Zhou Heng is in prison. Jiang Bin stops in front of his cell. ‘Have you seen this suitcase before, Mr Zhou?’
Zhou Heng looks up. ‘What do you mean by this? Why did you bring that here?’
‘It looks like you have seen it before, then,’ says Jiang Bin. ‘Do you still remember what’s inside the suitcase?’
‘What does that have to do with you?’ asks Zhou Heng. ‘Instead of thinking of ways to get me released from prison, you’re trying to find out more gossip about me? What kind of detective are you?’
‘Mr Zhou, not even your family’s status can save you from a prison sentence this time,’ Jiang Bin tells him. ‘As far as Chu Huizi’s murder is concerned, the evidence against you is indisputable; your conviction is all but certain. This suitcase holds the rifle that was used to kill Zhang Wan,’ he adds. ‘So I’d advise you to think carefully before you say anything else.’
Zhou Heng leaps up, and grabs hold of the bars of his cell. ‘What did you say? A rifle? What rifle? I didn’t kill Zhang Wan!’
‘Then tell me everything you know about this suitcase,’ says Jiang Bin.
‘I took the suitcase with me to the studio when I went there to sign the divorce papers,’ Zhou Heng explains. ‘I left it there for Xu Youyi. I’d filled it with money, jewellery, and some old photographs of us. I hoped that, once she opened the suitcase, she would understand my feelings towards her. Why is there a rifle in there instead?’
He comes to a sudden realisation. ‘It must be Xu Youyi! She’s trying to frame me for the murder! She wants me to die! Hahahahaha!’ Zhou Heng bursts into deranged laughter. ‘She’s willing to get me killed just to protect an outsider!’
Jiang Bin begins to walk away. Zhou Heng is still laughing. ‘Hahahahaha… she wants me to die…’
Jiang Bin looks back and fixes Zhou Heng with a steely stare. ‘Calm down, Mr Zhou. I’ll find out exactly what happened. We won’t make false accusations against anyone when there’s no evidence to support them.’
As Jiang Bin walks away, Zhou Heng yells after him. ‘Tell Xu Youyi to come here and face me! I want to look her in the eye and ask her questions! Tell her to come and face me!’
It’s daytime. Back at the studio, Yan Wei is washing her face. There are dark circles under her eyes.
When she wakes up, Yan Wei thinks as she pats her face dry, I’m just going to pretend nothing happened last night.
Xu Youyi is getting dressed in the bedroom. She sees Yan Wei come in.
I have to behave normally, she thinks to herself. Otherwise things will get very awkward. She calls out to Yan Wei. ‘Weiwei, I can’t seem to fasten my dress. Could you give me a hand?’
‘All right,’ says Yan Wei.
Yan Wei busies herself with the dress. Stop letting your imagination run wild. Focus on the dress. She tugs at the waistband. ‘Just a little bit further,’ she tells Xu Youyi. ‘Breathe in. Breathe in some more.’
Yan Wei finally manages to do up the buttons.
‘Phew, it’s done,’ she says.
‘Phew…’ Xu Youyi sighs in relief.
Then the buttons pop off.
‘Oh no!’ Xu Youyi wails. ‘My dress!’
‘Have you put on weight?’ asks Yan Wei.
‘No!’ says Xu Youyi indignantly. ‘This dress has always been difficult to do up!’
‘Your belly is bigger,’ Yan Wei points out.
‘Nonsense!’ Xu Youyi retorts. ‘My baby is very slim.’
Yan Wei beats a retreat. ‘I’m going to cook.’
Xu Youyi calls after her. ‘I saw the fish you bought! I have nausea, so I don’t want water-boiled fish. I want red braised pork instead.’
She watches as Yan Wei leaves the room. Did I behave normally enough?
I tried my best… Yan Wei reflects, as she heads down the stairs. Then she pauses. Wait. Did she say she wanted red braised fish, or water-boiled pork? Whatever. I’ll just make one of each.
Xu Youyi stares down at the two dishes in front of her. The platter contains a red braised fish; the bowl contains water-boiled pork. ‘Er…’ she stutters. ‘This…’ How did she interpret the term ‘red braised pork’? she wonders.
Just then, Jiang Bin walks into the studio. ‘Miss Xu?’
Xu Youyi looks up. ‘Detective Jiang?’
‘We dragged the suitcase you threw away out of the river,’ he tells her.
Xu Youyi looks at him quizzically. ‘What did you do that for?’
‘Inside the suitcase is a rifle that’s rarely available on the market,’ he says. ‘It’s the same make and model as the rifle that was used to kill Zhang Wan. Do you know anything, Miss Xu—’
‘What? The rifle that killed Zhang Wan?’ says Xu Youyi, putting on a shocked expression. ‘How did this happen?’
‘So you didn’t know what was inside the suitcase?’ asks Jiang Bin.
‘I never opened the suitcase,’ says Xu Youyi. ‘I don’t even have the key. Zhou Heng didn’t mention the suitcase at all when he was here. That’s why I thought he’d left it behind by mistake. When I went to return it, I happened to see him conspiring with Agent Bai. That upset me, so I threw the suitcase away.’
‘You said you didn’t have the key to the suitcase?’ Jiang Bin presses.
‘That’s right,’ Xu Youyi confirms.
There are no inconsistencies in either her statement or Zhou Heng’s, Jiang Bin muses.
‘I know!’ Xu Youyi exclaims suddenly. ‘It was Zhou Heng! Zhou Heng wanted to frame Yan Wei for the murder! If I’m not mistaken, he must have headed straight to the police station after we signed the divorce papers, to tell you that I’d taken Yan Wei away with me on the day of the fire. You started investigating Yan Wei soon after that. Once you put it all together, doesn’t that make his motives clear? His sense of possessiveness towards me is so strong that he was willing to have me killed — of course he’d be willing to frame someone he barely knows!’
She goes on. ‘You haven’t forgotten that he bribed Mrs Zhu in order to frame Yan Wei, have you, Detective Jiang? Or do you have reservations about offending the Zhou family as well?’
‘Please calm down, Miss Xu,’ says Jiang Bin. ‘We’ll look into all of this. By the way, is Miss Yan Wei not here?’
Yan Wei has been eavesdropping from behind a curtain. She did all that for me… It’s a pity about my rifle, but now that she’s laid all the groundwork, I can’t possibly drop the ball and ruin everything, can I?
Yan Wei emerges with a platter in each hand. One contains red braised pork; the other, water-boiled fish. ‘I was in the kitchen, dissecting a body,’ she tells Jiang Bin.
‘Would you care to try it, Detective Jiang?’ she adds.
Please view the original manhua here.
- The film Rashomon is perhaps best known for a plot device that involves different characters providing subjective, alternative and contradictory accounts of the same incident.