Chapter 119: Storage Room Conversation
As A-Ying was being escorted back to her cell, Jiang Zhengkai turned around and smiled at Zhang Nan. “It looks like you’re going to have to work overtime again tonight if we’re going to crack this case, brother.”
“I don’t mind working overtime as long as we are making progress,” responded Zhang Nan as he scratched his head. “But you know, it’s just, what, 40 or 50 thousand yuan each that these women ponied up? They were all on pretty good terms with A-Xiu before, so was it really necessary to kill her?”
“I guess it’s because that money came harder for them than it does for most people,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he stood up. “Now we’re just missing A-Hui. I hope nothing bad happens to her before we find her.” Right as he spoke, Jiang Zhengkai’s cell phone started ringing.
“Honey, what are you up to?” A-Jiao said over the phone. “God, that class really made me nervous! Are you going to pick me up again tonight?”
“Of course I will!” smiled Jiang Zhengkai as he answered. “Where are you right now?”
“At the preschool. Where else would I be?” A-Jiao softly retorted.
“Alright, I’m going off duty in just a bit.” Jiang Zhengkai chatted with A-Jiao for a few more minutes before hanging up the phone.
“So, you girlfriend wants you to go pick her up, huh?” laughed Zhang Nan. “Alright, just go already! Since I still have work to do tonight, I won’t be able to see you off.” He gestured towards the police station’s main entrance.
“Ha, she really needs to work on her timing, embarrassing me like that in front of a fellow officer,” Jiang Zhengkai complained with a smile on his face as he sat down beside Lu Xiaoqiang in his police cruiser. “It’s getting late, so you go home after dropping me off at Ziyuan’s preschool.”
“Yes, Inspector Jiang,” Lu Xiaoqiang chuckled as he drove. “You know, Sergeant Zhang is right. We’re all waiting for a slice of your wedding cake.”
“Haha, alright!” After Lu Xiaoqiang pulled up in front of the preschool’s front entrance, Jiang Zhengkai got out. “Didn’t you just get here yesterday? And yet you’re already in league with those guys, I see. Haha, alright, take the rest of the night off. You deserve it for all the hard work you’ve been putting in recently.”
“Thank you, Inspector Jiang! I’ll be on my way then,” Lu Xiaoqiang graciously said as he slowly drove off.
“What were you guys saying? Looked like it was something funny from the way you were laughing just now.” Jiang Zhengkai had no idea just when A-Jiao had appeared behind him. She held her handbag in her hands as she placed both hands behind her back and looked at him with a naughty expression on her face.
“Oh, nothing.” Jiang Zhengkai smiled at A-Jiao and then held her in his embrace. “They’re just telling me to get married.”
“Get married?” Upon hearing those words, A-Jiao became somewhat apprehensive and also somewhat curious. She looked into Jiang Zhengkai’s eyes and then placed her head on his shoulder. “You?”
“Yeah, me!” said Jiang Zhengkai as he stroked A-Jiao’s hair. “Honey, after this case is over, let’s get married!”
“Okay,” A-Jiao replied in the quietest, most delicate voice possible. Her face turned beet red as it remained glued to his shoulder.
That night, Jiang Zhengkai and A-Jiao happily returned to her new condo. As soon as A-Jiao entered, she nonchalantly kicked off her high heels, put on her slippers, and went inside the bathroom to take a shower. As he watched A-Jiao mischievously leaving his side, Jiang Zhengkai placed her shoes neatly on her shoe rack before going to the bedroom to change out of his uniform.
A-Jiao walked back into the bedroom as she was drying her hair with a towel. “Where are you, Honey?” She called out into the empty bedroom as she removed the towel from her head. It didn’t take her long to figure out where he might have snuck off to.
“What are you doing hiding here?” asked A-Jiao as she walked into her storage room. Jiang Zhengkai was indeed in there, as she had suspected. She saw him quietly sitting in front of the desk, his fingers rhythmically tapping on its surface. Clearly, he was deep in thought.
“Oh, nothing,” Jiang Zhengkai smiled at A-Jiao when he saw her entering. “You’re done showering? Alright, it’s my turn then.”
“Wait!” A-Jiao ordered as she pursed her lips at himi. She then pulled another chair next to him and sat down. “Tell me: what exactly is troubling my old man?”
Jiang Zhengkai heard A-Jiao talking, but he didn’t respond. He just looked at her for a while before moving his own chair closer to hers. He then pulled her into his embrace. His mind was a mess. He felt like the case had too many unconnected threads, but as soon as he pieced them all together, he found that he was back where he started.
“What’s wrong, Honey?” A-Jiao asked uneasily as she snuggled up to Jiang Zhengkai’s chest. “Why do you look so down today? Did your case… reach another dead end?” These days, she understood very well that the only thing that could cause Jiang Zhengkai to stare blankly at a wall was the alley serial murder case.
“Yeah, kind of,” Jian Zhengkai nodded. He used to hope that A-Jiao would actively reach out to him and help him crack this case, but not anymore. Sometimes, he even wished that she had no connection to this case at all. As for when the change in mentality began, even Jiang Zhengkai didn’t know for sure.
“Why don’t you talk about it, Honey? Maybe I can help you,” A-Jiao said as she left Jiang Zhengkai’s embrace and blinked her eyelashes at him. She seemed more audacious than before, more eager to help him solve this case.
“Honey, do you… know what A-Xiu and her associates were doing?” Jiang Zhengkai hesitated for a moment before asking.
“No, I don’t,” A-Jiao thought for a while before crisply answering. “At the time, I had only just arrived in the alley. I wasn’t very interested in their business.” She wasn’t lying. During her two years in the alley, that was the attitude she’d maintained with all of the other women who’d worked there.
“They were selling heroin,” said Jiang Zhengkai before he raised his head to look at her.
“Really?” There was a twinkle in A-Jiao’s eyes, and her focus seemed to drift away. Clearly, she was thinking over what Jiang Zhengkai had just told her. If A-Xiu and then were dealing drugs, did they have some kind of a connection with A-Tao? Probably not, though. At that thought, A-Jiao raised her head and looked frankly at Jiang Zhengkai. “Honey, I don’t think Sister Xiu’s business had anything to do with Brother Tao.”
“Why is that?” asked Jiang Zhengkai. He smiled casually at A-Jiao, but his piercing eyes continued to focus on her face.
“I met Sister Xiu and Brother Tao at around the same time,” A-Jiao recounted. “I first met Brother Tao about two months after meeting Sister Xiu. One night, I was…” She told Jiang Zhengkai how she’d ran into A-Tao in the alley, and how she’d helped him escape.
After hearing A-Jiao talk, Jiang Zhengkai helpless chuckled at her. “Girl, I should’ve arrested you two and a half years ago!” He forcefully squeezed A-Jiao’s nose.
“What are you doing? Why did you squeeze my nose?” A-Jiao protested.
“Don’t you know who A-Tao was?” Jiang Zhengkai asked her seriously.
“I know, the Bald Wolf!” A-Jiao confidently nodded.
“Then you knew he was a wanted criminal?” Jiang Zhengkai again asked seriously.
“I knew that. Did you know I was a prostitute?” retorted A-Jiao as she moved her face closer to his and opened her eyes wide to stare at him.
“Prostitute…” Jiang Zhengkai muttered to himself, before he softly kissed A-Jiao on the lips. “Alright, I forgive you, and I think I understand.” He leaned back in his chair. “You were taking care of the wounded A-Tao right around the time A-Xiu was in police detention, correct? So you didn’t know how or why those women killed A-Xiu.”
“Uh-huh!” A-Jiao didn’t say anything so much as grunt and nod in agreement. She then lowered her head. Perhaps this was all fate! A-Xiu had saved A-Jiao’s life, and in turn A-Jiao had saved A-Tao’s life. Meanwhile, A-Tao had killed Sui Dequan, which had indirectly led to A-Xiu’s death.
“During the time when A-Xiu was under arrest and later went missing, did you often go to her home?” Logically speaking, Jiang Zhengkai knew that A-Jiao was probably not lying. Even if she were, there was no way of asking A-Tao to verify her story, short of visiting the afterlife himself. And even if Jiang Zhengkai somehow could communicate with A-Tao in the afterlife, why would A-Tao ever testify against A-Jiao?
“Yes, often,” A-Jiao raised her head again to answer him. “I went there about once every three days,” she confidently replied.
“When did you find out that A-Di had left?” Jiang Zhengkai continued to ask.
“After A-Xiu was apprehended, I never saw her again,” A-Jiao definitively answered.
“Then when A-Xiu was under arrest and missing, did you see anything unusual or run into anyone in or around her home?” Jiang Zhengkai asked again.
“Unusual… I don’t think so,” A-Jiao shook her head. “As for running into anyone… I do remember running into A-Xue, A-Hua, and A-Ying once!” Recalling that event, A-Jiao raised her first and excitedly said, “I even gave A-Hua a bloody nose!”
“I didn’t know you had a barbaric streak in you.” Hearing A-Jiao’s alibi made Jiang Zhengkai feel a lot better, and a smile once again shone on his face.
“Of course! You can try me if you don’t believe me!” Seeing him smile again, A-Jiao jumped straight at Jiang Zhengkai…