Xiao Lou saw Wells’ body lying on the sofa and immediately put on his gloves to conduct an autopsy. Meanwhile, his teammates consciously collected clues from everywhere in the room.
Wells’ eyes were wide open and his tongue was half sticking out. This was a typical sign of strangulation. There were obvious strangulation marks on his neck which showed characteristics of ‘deepest at the center and gradually becoming shallower toward the sides.’ The strangulation marks were around three fingers wide.
No other obvious injuries were found on the body.
Xiao Lou quickly got a result for the autopsy. “The cause of death was mechanical strangulation. His shirt showed signs of being pulled by violence and two buttons have broken off. The tool used by the murderer was probably his tie.”
Yu Hanjiang frowned while looking at the man’s wrinkled shirt and analyzed, “He should’ve drunk a lot of alcohol at the Christmas Eve party. After sending the guests away, he fell asleep on the sofa. Unexpectedly, the murderer returned, took off his tie and strangled him.”
This was a reasonable guess. The carpet next to the sofa was very neat but some red wine was spilled on the nearby floor tiles. It was dried and there were no signs of something being dragged. The body hadn’t been moved. There was no need for the murderer to strangle Wells and then move him back to the sofa. Wells hadn’t gone back to the bedroom to sleep. He likely fell asleep directly on the sofa because he was drunk. Therefore, he didn’t know that his wife had been killed in the second floor piano room.
Xiao Lou asked his teammates, “What have you found?”
Ye Qi had gone to the trash can in the dining room. “The trash can is full of snack bags and various fruit skin peels. Nothing special.”
Shao Qingge walked around the kitchen and said, “There are many drinks in the refrigerator as well as fresh vegetables and meat that haven’t been used up. It seems that on Christmas Eve, this couple personally cooked and entertained their guests at home.”
Old Mo walked to the side of the dining room and found there was a large garden outside the French Windows. He tried to push it open but the glass door couldn’t be opened. It seemed to be fixed in place. Old Mo turned around and said, “This glass door of the dining room should be unlocked by a mechanism. The outside garden is probably the way for us to leave the secret room.”
Qu Wanyue and Long Sen searched all the cabinets in the living room and found two photo albums in the TV cabinet. Long Sen took the albums to Yu Hanjiang. “Group Leader Yu, there might be information about the key characters of the secret room.”
Yu Hanjiang immediately took it and examined it with Xiao Lou.
The first photo album that Xiao Lou looked through was a collection of personal photos of the husband and wife. There were all solo photos of the two people before they went to university, including photos of their birthdays in their childhood as well as important events in elementary and high school.
It could be seen from the photos that Shirley had been learning the piano since she was very young. There were many photos of her holding a trophy after winning various piano competitions. Wells’ hobby was also a musical instrument. He learned the violin and often participated in various competitions when he was young. Although the two people hadn’t met each other when they were young, the boy wore a suit and the girl a small dress. The photos looked good when put together.
There were a lot of blank spaces in the second half of the album. It wasn’t known if there were no photos originally or if some of them had been removed.
The second photo album held by Yu Hanjiang recorded their university days.
The two of them didn’t go to the same university. Wells studied at a School of Architecture at a comprehensive university while Shirley was a student at the Conservatory of Music, as evidenced by the photos of the two people at the school gate.
Their first photo together was in front of a big stage. The two of them seemed to be 20 years old at the time the picture was taken. Shirley was wearing a beautiful performance dress while Wells wore a handsome black tuxedo. The handsome man and beautiful woman stood in front of the piano and took a photo together. They didn’t look intimate and should be recently acquainted.
After this, there were more and more photos together. They gradually started to hold hands and hug.
Yu Hanjiang quickly flipped past the photos of the two and looked for other people in the album. He soon confirmed the identities of several other people. There were five people who took the most photos with Wells and Shirley and they were also the five invited to the Christmas Eve party. The names of the five people were written on the back of the photos.
Dr Simon was a university alumni from medical school and friend of Wells. In the photo, Simon stood in front of a laboratory building, wearing a white coat and posing with Wells. This person was half a head taller than Wells. He had a handsome appearance, wore silver-framed glasses and looked gentle.
Jack was also a friend of Wells. The two people apparently met at the university’s basketball club. There was a photo of them wearing the same team’s jersey and holding a basketball in the album. Jack was almost the same height as Wells.
Susan was a classmate of Wells. In the group photo, the two people held up the golden ‘Design Competition’ trophy. It seemed they participated in competitions together and won prizes. They were partners at work.
Finally, there were Martha and Karen. Both of them were best friends with Shirley. The three girls wore the same color and carried bags of the same style. There were several photos showing this. It seemed the three of them were very close and had a great relationship.
Yu Hanjiang sorted out these key photos. “From the perspective of the relationship between characters, the two men who participated in the party are friends of the husband Wells. Out of the three girls, two are friends of Shirley and one is Wells’ university classmate and perhaps a close colleague.”
Xiao Lou found the graduation photo of the five people and said, “They are students in the same year and graduated at the same time. Seven people took a photo together while wearing their graduation robes, indicating that everyone knows each other and their relationship is good.”
The photos could only determine the identity of each person. It was impossible to see who had emotional entanglements with Wells or Shirley. It was unlike the photo in 2 of Hearts where the best man stared directly at the bride.
Yu Hanjiang said, “One of the five people is the murderer. Let’s take a look at the little girl’s drawing.”
Lucia had drawn a picture of the day they moved in. There was a man and a woman helping her parents.
The child’s drawing only used colored pens to draw the outline of characters and the facial features were represented by lines. It was impossible to tell who was who but the body shape was obvious. For example, the height difference of her parents in the drawing was the same as in reality. Her father was half a head taller than her mother.
Xiao Lou took out the drawing and had a closer look. “The man in Lucia’s drawing is half a head taller than her father. Based on this point, we can exclude Jack.”
Jack was good at playing basketball and liked wearing sneakers. In the photo, he and Wells were exactly the same height.
Since the little girl drew the height difference of her parents, she shouldn’t deliberately draw the uncle half a head taller than her father unless it was true. According to that line of reasoning, the murderer might’ve been at the villa on the day of the move to find out the layout of the villa so they could plan the murder in advance. Jack was less likely if he hadn’t been to the villa.
Then the remaining man, Dr Simon naturally became more suspicious. He was exactly half a head taller than Wells and as a doctor, it was convenient for him to change the little girl’s cold medicine. If the murderer was him, it was possible for him to stab Shirley to death, strangle Wells and go to the little girl’s room to change the cold medicine.
Xiao Lou looked at the woman in the drawing. She had a slim build and curly hair. The little girl deliberately used a gold color to draw a wavy line behind the woman’s head to show her hair.
Susan, Wells’ female classmate, had short straight hair in the photo. Out of Shirley’s two best friends, one had long straight hair and the other had big curly hair. The one with curly hair was called Karen.
As long as the little girl wasn’t drawing randomly, it could be determined that the people who came to help on moving day were Dr Simon and Karen.
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang looked at each other and spoke at the same time, “Will the murderer be one of these two?”
Yu Hanjiang paused and frowned slightly. “According to the current clues, the most obvious suspect is Dr Simon. The jewelry that Shirley treasured represents a man in her heart who can’t be forgotten. The famous book The Lover was found in the study and Dream Wedding played in the piano room are very direct.”
Xiao Lou agreed. “The husband doesn’t have any clues to indicate he had a white moonlight in his heart or other women admiring him. The key should be Shirley. Her treasured necklace is too suspicious and there were also words like ‘Love you forever’ on the note.”
So was the killer Dr Simon?
The team members looked at each other and felt that the answer wouldn’t be so simple based on the keepers’ terrible personalities.
The door was still locked. Xiao Lou saw there were 20 minutes left on the countdown and told them, “There is still time. Don’t jump to conclusions. We will search again to see if there are any other clues or mechanisms.”
The team members separated.
After three minutes, Liu Qiao suddenly said, “There is a hidden door.”
She was in charge of inspecting the living room just now but hadn’t found any useful clues. She listened to Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang analyzing the case while knocking on the wall. Suddenly, there was a hollow sound. There was a door here.
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang immediately stepped forward.
The wall behind the TV in the living room was very large. The position where Liu Qiao knocked was just to the side of the TV. The echo of the wooden door was obviously different from the marble wall. Looking closer, they found a small keyhole.
The nail-sized keyhole was integrated with the paint of the wall. It was hard to see it clearly unless one was looking closely.
Xiao Lou’s gaze swept over the spacious rooms—the living room, dining room and kitchen. Everyone had checked all the drawers and found no keys. All the clues that had been collected in the drawers of other rooms had been brought with them.
Where was the key?
Xiao Lou turned and looked at the middle of the living room. The team members followed Xiao Lou’s gaze and locked onto the two meter high Christmas tree in the middle of the room. Xiao Lou told them, “The key should be in one of the Christmas stockings. Find it as soon as possible.”
There were many small red stockings hanging on the Christmas tree. At first, everyone thought they were just decorations but now it seemed there was most likely the key to the secret door hidden in them.
His teammates heard this and acted immediately. The bottom socks contained many chocolate candies. Ye Qi couldn’t reach the socks hanging at the top. He looked at the taller Chief Shao next to him and asked for help.
Shao Qingge stretched out his long arm and easily took off the highest sock. He opened it and sure enough, there really was a key. Xiao Lou grabbed the key and opened the secret door.
It was a storage room. There were five beautifully packaged gift boxes in different colors on the floor. There were many Christmas elements on the wrapping paper such as snowflakes, Santa Claus, stockings, etc.
They were obviously Christmas presents given to the couple by the five people invited to the Christmas Eve party.
Yu Hanjiang stated, “The final clue about the killer should be here.”
There were only 10 minutes left on the countdown. If the murderer wasn’t found then this time limit labyrinth couldn’t be completed at all.
They came all this way. They opened the mechanisms and cracked the codes fast enough. They wasted almost no time. The keeper shouldn’t have set the difficulty at a level that couldn’t be completed.
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang glanced at each other and ordered at the same time, “Open them.”
The five gift boxes were quickly grabbed by five people and everyone tore off the exquisite wrapping paper.
The moment the wrapping paper was torn off, a shocking scene appeared. Five boxes, five password locks!
Could they drag the keeper of Diamonds out for a fight?
Proofreader: Fictional Reality