Dafeng's Night Squad - Chapter 13
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Unimpressed, Xu Qian watched the head constable leave.
Too many days had passed for a proper evidence collection.
‘This era has no fingerprinting technology. There is no way Zhang Xian made the shoe prints himself. What other techniques can be used in this era to solve this case?’ Xu Qian racked his brain for a solution.
“These low-level officials are only useful when there’s profit to be gained. They’ll dance like monkeys when money is involved.”
The county magistrate’s anger resonated with his words. A murder case was a big deal and this victim had familial ties to Master Xu1 who sat on the Board of Imperial Advisors.
Who was the Board of Imperial Advisors?
They were imperial censors who flaunted their power by doling out punishment to whomever they please. Anyone who crossed them would be impeached citing misconduct.
The official registrar’s gaunt face was decorated with a goatee. He let out a chuckle. “They’ll have to go fishing sooner or later.”
As seasoned officials, they knew the underhand tactics used by the low-level officials.
When it came to manipulation, the low-level officials were akin to elementary school students. The masters were in the imperial courts while the governors of the border regions ranked second.
“Fishing when inspections are due? What am I supposed to say when the courts accuse us of misconduct?” Magistrate Zhu said.
At that moment, the sound of hurried footsteps interrupted their conversation. Constable Wang made his way into the hall. He stopped immediately after crossing the threshold and respectfully greeted, “We have a breakthrough in the Zhang murder case, Magistrate Zhu. Please issue a warrant for us to make the arrest.”
Magistrate Zhu and Registrar Xu  exchanged a look—the former chuckled while the latter wore a knowing smile.
Their expressions made Constable Wang hesitant. “There is no time to lose.”
Magistrate Zhu slammed his hand on the table and shouted, “Fool! Do you think I wouldn’t know? Fishing at this stage? Are you dumb?”
Under normal circumstances, a forced confession was acceptable but there laid the problem.
After a confession was obtained, the case would have to be handed over to the Ministry of Justice for sentencing.
The inspections were due for the year-end and there was a thrum of nervousness in the courts of Jingzhao City. Every official was being careful with their activities while keeping an eye on others, hoping to catch their enemies red-handed.
It was a time of political uncertainty and any verdict could be reversed.
Constable Wang hastened to clarify, “Please, you misunderstand. I am not fishing. I am confident we will nab the true perpetrator. Please believe me.”
‘Do you think I’m not aware of your abilities?’ Magistrate Zhu eyed Constable Wang suspiciously. “State your case.”
Constable Wang was glad to explain.
“Of course. The murder case has many oddities…”
Constable Wang reiterated Xu Qian’s theory for the two officials.
As the explanation went on, Magistrate Zhu’s disbelief changed into surprise—his back straightened unconsciously. In the end, he was silent with a stern expression on his face.
He was deep in thought.
Registrar Xu clapped his hand and praised. “Amazing! A painstaking investigation conducted with logic and rationale! You pried out the truth from the tiniest of clues. Truly the best of our times.”
Of course, they still required evidence and verification but the explanation gave the people of Changle County Courts a direction in mind.
Constable Wang smiled and said, “You’re being too generous.”
Magistrate Zhu laughed and asked, “Who taught you such methods?”
After a moment’s thought, Constable Wang tamped down the urge to steal another man’s achievement and said, “Fast-Hands Xu Qian.”
The designation was similar to the video-sharing platform in the modern day. In the ancient period, it was used to address the officials in the swift class.
Xu Qian… Magistrate Zhu was the first to react. “Him!”
Magistrate Zhu had gone for drinks with Xu Pingzhi in the past and they were on good terms. A few years ago, Xu Pingzhi had spent 20 silver taels to get his nephew a job.
In Dafeng, an official’s job can be passed down to his son.
Therefore, it was considered a stable source of income for the family.
Magistrate Zhu smiled. “That’s the boy.”
Registrar Xu recalled the case of the missing tax money and asked, “What do you mean?”
Constable Wang paid close attention to their exchange.
A smile was on the county magistrate’s face when he said, “The Xu family was embroiled in the high-profile case regarding the missing tax silvers. Why do you think the family was let off without a scratch?”
“I heard it was Xu Pingzhi of the Armed Guards who assisted with the investigation and thus was absolved by the Emperor,” said Constable Wang.
That was the story told by Xu Qian.
Registrar Xu glanced at Magistrate Zhu and asked, “Is there some inside story?”
The missing tax money case was beyond Registrar Xu’s jurisdiction. The county magistrate would have more access to information though he was considered a small potato in Jingzhao City.
Without the backing of powerful officials, one would not expect a long tenure.
Magistrate Zhu chuckled. “Xu Pingzhi is a rough-edged martial artist. He was nothing but a scapegoat in this case.” The county magistrate paused as if not wanting to reveal too much, then said, “He’s not the reason behind the Xu family’s release.”
“Who then?” Constable Wang asked.
Registrar Xu had an inkling he knew the real story but he waited for the county magistrate to continue.
Magistrate Zhu said, “Xu Qian. It was he who solved the case. His name is recorded in the scroll, according to an acquaintance of mine who works in the Jingzhao Courts. A father’s crime can be absolved with a son’s meritorious act. Although he is just a nephew, the basic principle stands.”
Registrar Xu whistled and said, “Xu Qian would have been in jail while the investigation was ongoing. How did he crack the case?”
“I found it unbelievable too, but now I understand,” Magistrate Zhu said knowingly.
“The scroll?” Registrar Xu arrived at the same idea and was shocked.
With only the written information… Constable Wang was rarely able to catch wind of the higher-ups’ gossip but this round, he was truly dumbfounded.
He did not believe Xu Qian could single-handedly solve a case that had everyone stumped.
It made no sense to Constable Wang.
When Xu Qian had first come to him, he was a hot-headed youngster who approached every case head-on.
When did the brash young man become an expert in solving cases?
When Constable Wang came back to the break room with the warrant, Xu Qian was asleep at his desk. He had spent the previous night thinking about a variety of things and fell asleep after the third gong.
Other constables moved to wake Xu Qian but Constable Wang raised his hand and said, “Let him sleep.”
He selected two constables. “Come with me to the Zhang manor.”
The three men summoned their civilian guards and left the Changle County Courts in a group of nine.
The civilian guard was formed from temporary conscription. Civilians were recruited and made to work without pay, lodgings or food.
On the bright side, they were not required to bear any responsibility.
Xu Qian was jolted awake by the rallying cry. He wiped away his drool and walked toward the main court.
He figured they must have successfully captured the suspects and the interrogations were underway.
In the main court, Magistrate Zhu sat at the judge’s desk on the dais. Beside him, further to the back, were the court officer and court runner.
Before the dais, the three classes of low-level officials gathered in two groups. Between them knelt the two suspects, a young man in an embroidered green robe and a beautiful woman in a purple silk dress.
The woman wore a distraught expression, a contrast to the young man’s unperturbed demeanor.
Magistrate Zhu slammed the table and called out, “State your name.”
The woman glanced at the young man. He gave her a serene look before straightening his back. “I am Zhang Xian.”
The woman said in a soft voice, “I am Yang Zhenzhen.”
Magistrate Zhu asked, “How did the both of you kill Zhang Yourui? Be honest!”
The woman was taken aback by the accusation. Her eyelashes fluttered as she tried to find her words.
Zhang Xian was shocked but he spoke, “Where is this accusation coming from? Why would I kill my father?”
“Where were you when the murder occurred?” Magistrate Zhu asked.
“I was in the study.”
“Why were you not with your wife?”
“I was checking the books.”
“Who can verify your whereabouts?”
“No one was awake at that time of night.”
Zhang Xian’s answers were coherent and unhurried. Either he had a clear conscience or he had had practice.
Xu Qian believed it was the latter.
Although Zhang Xian did not have a verified alibi, there was no hard evidence pinning the murder on him. A theory was only a theory and the man was innocent until proven guilty.
The county magistrate turned to the woman. “Yang Zhenzhen, you were married to Zhang Yourui for ten years yet bore him no children. How is it that you are pregnant now? I urge you to answer honestly, did you and Zhang Xian have improper relations and conspired to murder your husband?”
Yang Zhenzhen cried out. “No! My body is weak and I have been following the doctor’s advice daily to improve my health. It has been difficult but we managed to conceive. How can you accuse me of killing my husband?”
The floodgates opened and tears streamed down her face.
Xu Qian watched the scene and wondered, ‘How to obtain the truth?’ A feasible idea entered his mind.