Let's go back an hour in time.
After Ling Shu eagerly visiting the dressing room, half an hour later, Mrs. Zhang was sitting in the first-class carriage wanted to touch up her makeup.
She felt that she had rushed out too quickly this morning, and her foundation might not have been applied evenly, causing people to look at her frequently on the way.
So as soon as she got on the train from Nanjing with her companion servant, she immediately headed to the dressing room.
But someone grabbed the door handle faster than her.
It was the janitor responsible for cleaning the train.
He said that the dressing room had just been used at the previous station and needed a moment to be cleaned.
He asked Mrs. Zhang to wait a few minutes before entering. With a broom in hand, he entered the dressing room and closed the door behind him.
Ms. Zhang had no choice but to return to her seat, feeling restless and uneasy. She couldn't help but think back to the rude and arrogant attitude of the janitor who didn't even nod or bow to her.
She was dissatisfied and couldn't resist the urge to confront him about his poor service attitude. So she got up and headed towards the restroom.
Even though it was the Republican era and society was supposed to be civilized and enlightened, the deep-seated hierarchy of respect and disrespect was not something that could be easily overcome.
On this train, the first and second-class attendants would actively announce the stations to passengers, but those in third-class had no such service and had to rely on themselves to keep track.
Ms. Zhang felt that the janitor had been disrespectful to her and wanted to teach him a lesson with her words.
Unfortunately, she hadn't been able to get a good look at his face when he had lowered his head earlier.
Otherwise, she would have complained about him long ago. When Mrs. Zhang returned to the dressing room, she found the door slightly ajar and the attendant gone. In his place was a woman, resting her head on the makeup table with her back to Mrs. Zhang.
At a glance, Mrs. Zhang could tell that this woman was tall and slender, with ill-fitting clothes and a crude posture.
She couldn't possibly be a first-class passenger, and Mrs. Zhang suspected that she had sneaked into the dressing room to take advantage of the amenities.
Annoyed, Mrs. Zhang scolded her, "You can't rest here, you're disturbing others!"
But the woman either slept too soundly or ignored her completely. Mrs. Zhang grew angrier and pushed her, but the woman still didn't budge. "I'm talking to you, can't you hear me?"
Ms. Zhang was a bold and direct woman who immediately grabbed the other person's hair.
With a swift motion, she yanked up the permed, shoulder-length hair, causing a loud rustling sound!
Beneath the wig, there was a man's head and hairstyle. However, he was wearing a woman's skirt.
Even a fool could see that something was wrong, yet he remained sound asleep despite the commotion.
Ms. Zhang was terrified, her face turning pale as she trembled.
She even forgot to let go of the wig she was holding, let alone approach the man to investigate.
It was a brave male passenger who reached out to check the man's breathing.
"He's dead!" he exclaimed in just two words.
The crowd immediately retreated with a gasp, causing a small commotion. The onlookers were almost pushed aside by the curious bystanders.
The train attendant who had just given Ling Shu a sugar cube was at a loss. He had worked hard to get this job, but just two days after his promotion, he was faced with such a tragedy.
This was the first time such a heinous crime had occurred on the train since it began operating.
Summoning his courage, he stepped forward. Someone pushed him from behind.
"Excuse us, we're police officers. Let us in to take a look!"
The train attendant turned around.
It was the handsome young man who had just been about to offer him a sugar cube.
He never would have guessed that this well-mannered, casually dressed man was actually a police officer.
"Train attendant! Train attendant!"
Someone shouted and grabbed him by the arm.
"People have died, hurry up and stop the train! How can it keep going?! Where is it even going?! Who would dare to sit on it?!"
The train attendant was pushed and shoved out of the crowd, stumbling and falling. He didn't know who to report to, so he just stood there dumbfounded.
Meanwhile, Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang had already arrived at the side of the dead man.
"Did you discover him first?" Ling Shu asked Ms. Zhang.
Ms. Zhang nodded, then began to shout.
"It was that janitor! He must have killed him!" Without waiting for Ling Shu to ask, she recounted everything that had happened in detail.
"There were marks on his neck, and his cervical vertebrae were twisted. It was undoubtedly a homicide."
"He was wearing a dress and a wig, but the dress didn't fit him properly, and the buttons weren't even done up. His stockings were also on the wrong way round, and the wig fell off with just a tug. Such attire would attract attention not just on a train, but even on the streets."
Yue Dingtang stood up and removed the gloves he had used to examine the body. It was clear that he would rather not wear the gloves than use them again.
"Yes, yes!" Mrs. Zhang suddenly came to her senses and quickly threw away the wig in her hand. "When I tried to grab his hair earlier, it came off easily without any force!"
There was only one possibility: the victim's clothing had been changed after death. The killer must have done it to delay the discovery of the body and buy time to escape.
"Excuse me, when and where is the next stop?" Yue Dingtang asked the train attendant who was standing nearby.
"The next stop is Bengbu, but it's still a long way off," the attendant replied.
The train ride from Nanjing to Bengbu takes about six hours. The train had only traveled about a third of the way, so it couldn't suddenly stop, even if there was a murder.
They would have to report it and wait until they reached the station to handle it.
Ling Shu showed his credentials and asked the train attendants and porters who had come to investigate to help evacuate the crowd, restore order, and assist Ms. Zhang out of the train.
The clothes on the deceased had been hastily replaced by someone, so naturally there couldn't be any clues left behind.
The only lead was the janitor that Ms. Zhang had just mentioned.
If that janitor wasn't the killer, then the deceased must have died after he left, otherwise the janitor would have caused a commotion like Ms. Zhang did.
Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang obviously had the same idea.
"The train had only just started moving when I went around to explore. I even went to the dressing room, but there was no one there at the time, probably about an hour ago. Half an hour later, Ms. Zhang came over and happened to run into that janitor. The janitor wasn't very polite and didn't even say hello, which made Ms. Zhang very unhappy. So, half an hour later, she became more and more angry and went to the dressing room to confront the janitor, only to find the deceased."
"So, in other words, there was only a short half hour window for the killer to commit the murder, dispose of the body, change clothes, and leave without being caught. It's a very rushed task and almost impossible to achieve. Unless..."
Yue Dingtang nodded, "When Ms. Zhang encountered the janitor, she was only standing at the door with it slightly ajar. She didn't look inside and didn't know if anyone was in there. She said she saw the janitor coming from elsewhere, not from inside, which means there was already someone inside, possibly the killer."
Ling Shu added, "Within half an hour after I left, the victim was killed and Ms. Zhang encountered the janitor who was trying to cover up the crime scene. That's the perfect timing."
Yue Dingtang concluded, "So the janitor may not be the killer, but he must be an accomplice."
The train attendant standing nearby was already confused by their conversation.
"Officers, what do we do now?" he asked urgently.
Yue Dingtang said, "We need to find someone," he pointed to the dead man, "someone with a similar build to him. The clothes he was wearing may now be on someone else, and they are likely too big for them. That person may be the killer!"