Unscathed Murder, part 2

     “We could gather all the people from our Escort Houses in the ten provinces, and then we could take on any of them – Shaolin, Wutang, Emei, Qingcheng, or the Five Mountains Sword Alliance,” Lin Pingzhi declared. 

Lin Zhennan was amused. “Son, it’s alright to say something like that when you are talking to me. But if you had said those words to an outsider, you’d get into a lot of trouble. The eighty-four escorts we have at our ten Escort Houses, each has his own specialty. Of course, when we all gather together, we aren’t afraid of anyone, but what do we gain by beating other people? It is well said that manners and amicability make great fortunes; this is especially true for us in the escort business. What are we going to lose by being humble? Let the others go around showing off.” 

Escort Zheng's body was found in Stable
Escort Zheng's body was found in Stable

     “Oh no! Escort Zheng is dead too!” somebody suddenly yelled out from outside. Lin Zhennan and Lin Pingzhi were both dumbstruck. 

     Lin Pingzhi jumped out of his chair and muttered, “They’re back for re…!” It took him great effort to finally swallow the word “revenge” back down his throat. Lin Zhennan was already on his way out and didn’t catch what Lin Pingzhi had just said. 

Henchman Chen rushed in and yelled incoherently, “Chief…Chief Master! Trouble! Escort Zheng…Escort Zheng’s spirit is possessed by the Sichuan demon too.”

      “Stop this nonsense! What Sichuan demon?” Lin Zhennan roared with a stern face. “Sir! The demon…the man from Sichuan was already very ferocious when he was alive; naturally he would be more terrifying after death…,” Chen said lamely. Seeing the Chief Master’s hard countenance, he dared not continue, and only looked to Lin Pingzhi with a mixed expression of fear and grief. 

     “Did you say Escort Zheng was dead? Where’s the body? How did he die?” Lin Zhennan asked impatiently. 

Several more escorts and henchmen rushed into the hall. “Brother Zheng died in the stable,” one escort answered with a frown. “He died in exactly the same way as Henchman Bai. There wasn’t a single wound on his body, and no bleeding could be found from any aperture. No swelling on his face either. Maybe…maybe they became haunted by some kind of demon when they…when they went hunting with the Young Master.” 

     Lin Zhennan snorted. “I’ve lived all my life without ever seeing either a ghost or a demon. Let’s go take a look.” He walked out of the hall and into the stable. 

Escort Zheng’s body lay on the ground, his hands still holding onto a saddle. Apparently, he had been taking the saddle off before his sudden demise. There was no sign of any struggle. 

As it was already dark outside, Lin Zhennan asked a henchman to hold a lantern while he examined Escort Zheng. He carefully checked all parts of the corpse, including all the major bones, but failed to find any sign of injury – not even a broken finger. Lin Zhennan was not superstitious. When Bai had died suddenly, it was just a strange occurrence. Now, that Escort Zheng died in the exact same way, it had to be more than a coincidence. If they died of plague or some kind of disease, why were there no red or black spots on the bodies? Could the two deaths have been related to something that happened during his son’s hunting trip? 

     Soon, the three arrived at the East Hall. “What really happened?” Lin Zhennan asked his son.

Lin Pingzhi hastily confessed and told his father all about the trouble he had at the wine shop: how they went in for some drinks; how the two men from Sichuan accosted the girl, which resulted in the fight; how the fight broke out and the man attempted to push Lin’s head down to kowtow; how he pulled out a dagger and killed that person; and how they buried the body in the back garden and gave old man Sa some silver to keep him quiet. He told everything there was to tell, without leaving anything out. (To be continued)

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