Lock Room Mystery
Dee and Rui arrived at the massive Royal Palace by riding a carriage. Dee didn’t plan to come here originally, but his instinct is begging him to check out Doctor Li’s death. Maybe Dee’s feelings are right, he could find something relating to the masked group. However, Dee first wanted to visit the emperor.
“I and Rui will be here for a while,” Dee told his coachman. “Just wait here and take care of the horses.”
The two got out of the carriage and walked up to the front entrance, but the door guard stopped them.
“Unauthorized person may not enter,” The guard said to Dee and Rui.
“Are you new?” Before Dee could explain, Rui spoke aggressively. “Do you not know the best detective in Chang’an, Master Dee?”
Dee stopped Rui from talking and said calmly. “I am a proud official.” Pointing to his hat.
The guard looked at Dee’s hat and said. “The emperor said this morning, to not let anybody in the palace, even officials.”
“May you tell the emperor that official Dee is here to solve the new case?” Dee politely asked. The guard thought for a bit and agreed to Dee’s request.
After about five minutes, the guard returned along with another person, wearing an official’s hat. “Greetings, Master Dee,” The person spoke.
“Greetings, Master Yao,” Dee replied. The two do know each other.
“Please enter,” Yao said. “The emperor wants to see you.”
The three of them entered the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace is where the officials, generals, eunuchs, and where the emperor lives. The Royal Palace is a huge place with an amazing environment. The palace is split into sections designated for its own use. Some are for the living, and some are for working. There are over thousands of people living in the Royal Palace. The whole palace is surrounded by stone-made walls, with lots of guards protecting the entrances on the outside. At the center of the Royal Palace is the Emperor’s Palace. It is the biggest, most luxurious building in the Royal Palace, where the emperor works. At the front, there are long stair paths that lead to the colossal golden front door.
The three of them took some time to get to the Emperor’s Palace. Inside the palace is full of fascinating representations of richness and power. When people first enter, they will be left speechless, as the suffocating feel of the greatest power shocks them. Right as people enter in, they will see a chair, called the dragon’s chair, made out of gold, that only the emperor is allowed to sit in.
Wu Zetian is the emperor of the great dynasty. She is the first and only female leader in history. She is highly respected and loved by her people. To be the first female leader, she is also wise and full of courage. She has a wide forehead and a full chin. She is very beautiful. However do not get fooled by her beautiful look, as she can kill anyone with one look in the eye. Getting stared down by her is like getting stared down by thousands.
The emperor is impatiently sitting in her chair, waiting for Dee’s arrival. Her face looks a bit worried. The disease that has been spreading around has weighed lots of pressure on her.
Dee and Rui soon entered the Emperor’s Palace, the emperor stood, inviting them in. “Long live my emperor.” Dee and Rui both bowed down and said.
“You may stand,” The emperor replied.
“Thank you, your majesty,” The two replied but did not stand up.
The emperor stood up. She roamed over just in front of Dee. “What is the deal, my darling?” She asked.
“I plead to investigate the strange death of Doctor Li, I feel like Doctor Li’s death is a murder,” Dee responded. “I have a suspicion that the death of Doctor Li and the recent spreading of the disease is done by the same group of people. If they are not caught, I fear that they shall hurt you, my lord.”
“I trust you, Dee,” The emperor said warmly, staring straight into Dee’s eyes. “I will grant you a search warrant, you shall have permission to investigate anything.”
The emperor walked back to her chair, waiting for Dee’s response.
“One more thing,” Dee added. “My lord, to keep you safe I suggest canceling the upcoming Lantern Festival.”
“Nonsense,” The emperor scolded. “The lantern festival is one of the most important festivals of Chang’an. It will not be canceled unless the disease takes a worse turn.”
Dee wanted to explain but got ruthlessly interrupted by the emperor. “The workings of the cure are close to finished. We are confident that before the festival, the cure would be given out to everyone. If your suspicions are right, Dee, your job is to catch the group of people, before they do anything more harmful. You have until the day of the lantern festival to do so. Do not disappoint.”
“I’ll for sure complete the mission,” Dee said fearlessly. “I also have another suspicion. From my research, the disease is really similar to a disease called LiFeng. And the cure for LiFeng is recorded.”
“Dee, I fear your suspicion is wrong,” The emperor said. “Days ago, our doctors already suspected the same thing and tried to make a cure. This disease appears not to be LiFeng.”
“You can get up now.” The emperor stood up. After this talk, the wrinkles on her face just got more obvious, with worries written all on it. While Dee froze in silent awkwardness. “I need to leave.”
“Thank you, my lord.” Dee stood up as the emperor disappeared.
“We only have nine days,” Rui cried. “How are we supposed…..”
“I think it’s doable,” Dee interrupted. The two of them left the Emperor’s Palace, heading towards Doctor Li’s room, where he died. On the way, Dee told Rui his suspicions. He also told Rui about the masked performer and the cups of medicine. People might believe the disease is just a normal spreading, but Dee now thinks otherwise. The cup of medicine showed the exact same symptoms compared with the disease after the audience gave it a drink. This is no coincidence, the masked performer has to be related to this somehow.
“The disease could just be a cover-up for the death of Doctor Li,” Rui suggested. “Like to blame the death on the disease.”
“That’s why I think there might even be a second or third death happening soon,” Dee added. “It’s going to be crucial that we solve this case as quickly as possible so that nothing else happens.”
“Have you ever remembered seeing these masked people or the tricks with the pills?”
“I don’t think I’ve seen it before, Master Dee.”
The two kept walking until finally arriving at the death scene. After showing the guards the search warrant, the two entered the room. There are already people from the Dali department investigating the death. Dali is a department in charge of the city’s law, often contributing to cases like this. As a matter of fact, three years ago, both Dee and Rui were a part of the Dali department. People from Dali always wear their uniform, a black cap with a long black jacket and a cape. People from there are trained to be good fighters and detectives.
“Greetings, Master Dee.” One of the people recognized Dee as he walked in.
“Greetings, Master Dee.” The others noticed Dee as well.
“Greetings to you all,” Dee responded. Dee recognized one of the people that he worked with years ago, known as Yuchi.
“How have you been in Dali, Yuchi?” Dee asked.
“I’ve been prompted to be the second in command,” Yuchi proudly said. “Thanks to your guys’ support ”
Dee and Rui both laughed. Four years ago, Dee and Rui were still in the Dali department. Both of them had high positions. At the time Yuchi just joined the Dali, he was a rookie and was often bullied around. Despite being in the department, Yuchi did not get many chances to go on a mission. Instead, he was basically relegated to being the janitor. One day, early in the morning, Dali students are practicing Kung Fu with one another. Dee and Rui saw Yuchi who was intentionally isolated by others. After understanding the situation, Dee harshly educated the bullies.
Dee kindly taught Yuchi how to be a detective, bringing him to lots of cases. To everyone’s surprise, Yuchi showed lots of potentials, often bringing up unnoticed points, contributing greatly to the solving of cases. He also showed tremendous Kung Fu skills that can beat down almost all of the others in Dali. As time went on, Yuchi would gain lots of praise. He was seen as the next great detective. Three years ago, a conflict between Dee and the leader of Dali, Xun, broke out. Dee left, bringing Rui with him. Dee asked Yuchi if he wanted to come with him, but Yuchi ended up staying in the department.
Yuchi is just a few years younger than Rui. He is tanned-skinned, skinny, yet quite muscular. He has the perfect height, paired up with a charming look. A popular one amongst women. This might be the reason he was picked on by others in Dali.
“How come you’ve never visited us?” Rui asked Yuchi.
“I was worried Master Dee was mad at me, plus Master Xun would probably get mad at me too.”
“Master Dee would never get mad at you, you are his best student, or maybe second, behind me.” The two laughed.
Seeing Yuchi had triggered Dee’s past memories when he was in Dali. It was a pleasant time that Dee missed dearly. A drop of tear even dangled in his eyes. Thankfully to Dee, nobody noticed. Dee quickly put away his feelings, as the most important thing in Dee’s mind right now is to solve this case.
“Yuchi, run me through what had happened” Dee’s words breaking the loud laughter.
“No problem.” Yuchi takes out his notebook and reads. “The deceased known as Doctor Li is one the best Doctors in the whole dynasty. Early this morning, about four hours ago found dead in his workroom; the actual death time is unknown. The death was reported by his maid and one of the guards. The deceased, when dead, had white foam coming out of his mouth. His lips are purple, and he had multiple lacerations on his body. The room had no signs of broken, the windows and doors completely locked.”
Dee strolled over to the dead body. Indeed there are multiple scratches on the body. The white foam and the purple lips are particularly eye-catching characteristics. He noticed the deceased pupils shrinking very small. Dee does in fact know that these are common symptoms of a poisonous effect. When the deceased died he must’ve suffered through lots of pain, his pupils shrinking. The scratches on his body might be done by himself, while in pain. However, it could also be done by the murderer.
Yuchi then added, “From last night to today morning when the body was found, the guards saw nobody entering the room. It was this morning when the maid entered the room to serve tea and saw the body. The room was locked, the maid called for Doctor Li but no one replied, so he opened with an alternative key, kept by the head guard. Doctor Li was last seen showing no sign of poisonous effect or any sickness last night. This could potentially be a suicidal event or a locked room murder.”
“A suicidal event is a bit unlikely,” Dee thoughtfully said. “Doctor Li for the past few years has been the most trusted doctor by the emperor, earning lots of privileges. He also has kids and wives, I just don’t see a reason for him to suicide.”
“Every doctor in the city is ordered to find the cure of the disease,” Yuchi agreed. “Whoever finds the cure would be crowned as the next best doctor by the emperor. It would be a weird time to suicide for doctor Li since he clearly wants to maintain his spot as the best doctor in Chang’an. It could be other doctors murdering him somehow, trying to take his throne.”
Dee agreed to Yuchi’s point. However, he did not tell Yuchi about the masked performer. The two haven’t talked in three years. Dee is not completely in trust with Yuchi yet. “Are there any witnesses?” Dee asked.
“Unfortunately, no,” Yuchi said.
Dee started wandering in the room, looking for helpful information. The setup of the room seems expected, nothing out of the ordinary. Some green plants, flowers, a table, a bed for the patient. An area for making traditional medications, also a tall bookshelf. The deceased lying right in the middle of all things. A locked-room murder is one of the hardest cases for even experienced detectives.
At this point, Dee is sure that Doctor Li died to a poisonous effect, and it’s probably a murder. But how was it done? If really nobody entered the room or even got past the guards. How was he murdered? What could be a way to poison Doctor Li? Could he have accidentally been killed by himself? All the answers to the question are still unclear.
“Master Dee, I’ve found something.” Rui’s words broke Dee’s thoughts. Rui is standing in front of a stove, on it a small pot. Inside the pot is a purple-coloured liquid. It smelled like some sort of herb. It looks like Doctor Li was making a herbal decoction. Boiling some herbs inside the clay pot.
“Before he died, Doctor Li could be boiling something inside this pot,” Rui then added.
“Yuchi,” Dee called Yuchi as he rushed over. “What does the death scene first look like?”
Yuchi paused for a moment, then replied. “The maid and the guard said, when they walked in, the body was dead near the door. The room also had the smell of medicine, but that is typically the case. Also, the maid said that when she walked in the pot was still boiling, so she turned it off.”
“Doctor Li making a herbal decoction could be the last thing he did,” Dee said without any hesitation. “Since he didn’t have time to even turn the fire off.”
Everyone seemed to agree, nodding in approval. After having that thought in mind, Dee quickly went to check the cabinet containing different kinds of herbs and medications. Many slots in the cabinet were still full, but some slots are missing certain items. Dee told Rui to record all of the names of the herbs and medications. His first step is to determine what was boiling inside the pot.
After staying in place for a few periods, Dee decided to get moving. “Yuchi, you want to come with us?” Dee invites Yuchi as the two are ready to head to nearby pharmacies.
“I have something to finish today,” Yuchi responded. “Maybe next time.”
Dee and Rui walk out of the room. Their journey of finding the truth has begun. Even though it seems only like a small case, Dee thinks there is a way bigger plan hidden in the dark, a plan that could harm the whole city of Chang’an.