Chen Ge could not understand Doctor Gao’s message. “How could washing one’s hair be related to a self-defense mechanism?”
“PSTD presupposes an earlier trauma. Men Nan repeatedly washing his hair is probably to escape from a psychological trauma; this perhaps has to do with his past.”
“Yes, something he has experienced in the past has left a great trauma in him. Whenever he is reminded of it, his body reacts. To ease the pain, he instinctively seeks out a method to make himself feel better. Based on my observation, that method is to wash his hair.”
After a while, Doctor Gao sent another message. “At the beginning of the semester, I once asked Men Nan why he chose to study psychology. He told me that he wished to cure someone’s illness, and I now realize that he was probably talking about himself.”
“Looks like the problem resides in what happened to Men Nan when he was young. In that case, we have to ask him for more details. Only by knowing his history can we help him.”
“If my diagnosis is correct, it is all the more reason that we cannot ask him. He has been trying to forget this past, so if we ask him about it, it might send him over the deep end.”
“Then perhaps we can contact his family. The man is in such pain, but his parents do not care one bit about him? That doesn’t seem right.” Chen Ge wanted to snap a picture of Men Nan in his current state and send it to Men Nan’s parents.
“I asked them about this when I made the call earlier. Men Nan has had this habit of obsessively washing his hair since he was young. His parents have gotten used to it and don’t think it’s anything to worry about.”
“Did they say why this happened?”
“No, when Men Nan was small, his parents did take him to visit a psychiatrist. The diagnosis then was OCD, something that was very rare for a child his age. Since he was still so young, there was no medication that could be prescribed. The psychiatrist merely advised his parents give him constant company.”
“Obviously, his parents did not take the doctor’s advice,” Chen Ge replied without second thought. If Men Nan’s parents cared about him, they would not have acted so coldly.
“A slight OCD is not a disturbance to daily life, so his parents did not take it to heart. Other than that, after some digging around, I found out that Men Nan’s biological mother died when he was five or six. His father remarried, and he gave Men Nan a younger brother from the second marriage.”
“Biological mother is dead? There’s such a history?” Chen Ge saw a ray of light in their investigation.
“His biological parents did not share a good relationship. His father was not home a lot, so his mother practically raised him alone. One day, a burglar entered the house. What happened next, Men Nan’s current parents are not sure; all they knew was the neighbor called the police the next day.”
“The next day?” Chen Ge’s heart skipped a beat. “Then, where was Men Nan during the time of the crime?”
“I’m not sure, but based on the testimony from the neighbor, when the police arrived, Men Nan was already at the crime scene; he was the first person to find his mother.”
Reading the message from Doctor Gao, a chill ran up Chen Ge’s spine. “Meaning Men Nan spent the night with his dead mother inside the house? He was only discovered the next morning?”
“I suppose one can see it that way. Perhaps the burglar took pity on Men Nan or was not awake during the time of crime. In any case, Men Nan survived the break-in; however, the sight of his dead mother must have left a deep psychological scar in his heart. I suspect his OCD and PTSD are both related to this murder, but what I don’t understand is why he insists on washing his hair? How is that related to the murder?”
Doctor Gao’s reply was filled with confusion. It was the same question Chen Ge wanted to ask as well. He stood before the mirror and looked at his reflection.Washing hair? Self-defense mechanism?
The image of himself mimicking Men Nan appeared in his mind. Chen Ge touched the back of his neck, and he was suddenly reminded of something. The water drop!
He immediately messaged Doctor Gao. “At the crime scene, where was the body of Men Nan’s mother discovered?”
“After the burglar killed her, he removed the damp-proof boards from the ceiling of the bathroom and shoved her up there. If not for the fact that the neighbor’s kid went to school together with Men Nan, and thus both families shared a good relationship, the crime would not have been discovered so soon.”
“The space above the bathroom?” Chen Ge raised his head to look at the bathroom he was in. The ceiling of the place was low; he felt pressured standing in it. “I think I understand why Men Nan has the hair washing OCD.”
He used his phone to reply to Doctor Gao. “Is it possible that this was the real event that happened? After the burglar broke into the house, both mother and son discovered him. His mother asked for Men Nan to hide while she went to call the police but was unfortunately discovered by the burglar.”
“That’s possible, but what does that have to do with hair washing?”
“Men Nan witnessed his mother’s murder and hid away. After the burglar left, he went to search for his mother. When he entered the bathroom, his mother’s blood happened to drip on his head.” When Chen Ge typed those words, he was not feeling so good. “Therefore, even now, whenever a liquid falls on his head or whenever he is reminded of that incident, he washes his hair again and again; he wants to wash the memory away. Doctor Gao, you were right; this is more than a simple OCD!”
After sending those words, Chen Ge looked out the bathroom. Doctor Gao’s expression was written in shock. He caught Chen Ge’s eyes, and they shared a look.
“The cause of the illness has been found!” Doctor Gao put away his phone and walked toward Chen Ge. “I’ll bring him away now and provide the necessary post-traumatic treatment.”
“I’m afraid it’s not that simple.” Chen Ge glanced at Men Nan, who stood where he was, and slightly shook his head. “Men Nan kept repeating the same action in his dream, but washing his head wasn’t scary. The real scary thing was the man who kept approaching him. To help Men Nan, we have to find out everything about this man and chase him out of Men Nan’s dream.”
“Chase the thing out of his dream?” Doctor Gao looked at Chen Ge with a suspicious look before turning to look at Men Nan, who stood in a funny posture. In that short moment, he felt he was back at the mental hospital. “Are you kidding with me?”
“I already have a theory in mind; it’ll be confirmed later tonight!” Chen Ge lined all the clues together, and he was sixty percent confident. “There are indeed three ‘people’ in this room. Two of them have been confirmed. We only need to solve the mystery of the third one.”