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The Mystery of the Net of Heaven

Judge Dee discovers the
hanged Plum BlossomJudge Dee discovers the hanged Plum Blossom

Shen Liang-mo and Chao Chi-chun had always been close friends and when their wifes were pregnant, they promist each other to engage their children if they would turn out to be a boy and a girl

It so happened that this was the case, and the engagment was made. But while Chao was succesful in his career, Shen became addicted to gambling. The family of Shen became very poor and Chao did not want to honour his promise of giving his daughter in marriage to the son of Shen. His wife, Lady Chieh, did however insist on the marrying of Plum Blossom to Shen Tai. She secretly sent Tai a large sum of money so that he could pay for the marriage

Tai did not have decent clothes, however, and he visits his nephew Wang Pei to borrow a gown. Wang offers him his best clothes, but tells Tai he has to do some business first, for which he needs his best gown himself. Wang Pei goes to the house of Chao, where he identifies himself as Shen Tai. He seduces Plum Blossom against her will, and then goes home, taking a large portion of Plum Blossom's jewelry.

Shen Tai then goes to the Chao mansion. If he introduces himself as Shen Tai he is at first not believed. Plum Blossom, however, does believe him later on, and presents him with the remainder of her jewelry, some golden hair-pins. She tells Shen Tai she cannot marry him, but does not tell him why. When Shen Tai leaves her, she flees the house, and is caught by an agent for a brothel in the North-western quarter of the town. Her father, Chao Chi-chun does not want to bring the disappearance of his daughter to the attention of the Judge, fearing a scandal.

After a few days Plum Blossom hangs herself, thus presenting the Judge with a difficult case.


The Gamesmaster is of course free to add more clues, especially if the players come up with something plausible. Deleting clues because they are too easily spotted is not a good idea, however, since the players do play intelligent investigators, not clueless readers of mystery fiction.


Text and illustration: © 1999 Boudewijn Rempt - Optimized for Lynx