Chapter 120: Tracking A-Hui
The morning sun peered through the loft windows as it lit up the entire condo. A-Jiao woke from her slumber and glanced at the soundly sleeping Jiang Zhengkai. She then quietly got up and did her morning exercises under the sunlight. Performing light exercises in the morning was a habit that A-Jiao had cultivated over many years.
Perhaps it was because the two of them had stayed up too late talking in the storage room (not to mention exerting themselves too much in their bedtime “activities” afterwards), but Jiang Zhengkai was sleeping far past his normal waking hour. He was still snoozing in bed even after A-Jiao had already finished preparing breakfast.
“Honey, do you plan on being a lazy bum today?” said A-Jiao as she used her fingers to gently caress his face. “Get up, Honey!”
“Ah!” With A-Jiao’s touch, Jiang Zhengkai finally snapped out of his dreamy slumber. He opened his eyes slightly and slowly saw her face through a groggy haze. “What time is it, woman?”
“What was that? What did you call me?” asked A-Jiao as she gently tugged on his nose. “So, Honey, do you really think this serial killer is out to avenge Sister Xiu?”
“That…” Jiang Zhengkai shook his head. “I honestly don’t know, Honey. What makes you ask?”
“I’m trying to see if there’s any way I can help,” said A-Jiao as she placed her head on his chest. “Honey, who do you think is the killer’s next target?”
“Heh, I wonder.” Jiang Zhengkai chuckled at A-Jiao. He couldn’t very well blurt out that he figured the killer’s next target would be either A-Ying or A-Hui. If the killer were truly on a mission to avenge A-Xiu, those two were the logical choices. A-Ying was already in police custody, which made her nearly untouchable to a serial killer. But what about A-Hui? Could she be the next victim…?
“Okay, lazy bum, time for breakfast!” Seeing Jiang Zhengkai engrossed in his thoughts, A-Jiao smacked his face as she stood up. “We’re going to be late if you don’t get up now!”
“Alright, fine!” replied Jiang Zhengkai as he got out of bed. Nevertheless, he continued to ponder over A-Jiao’s question: who would be the killer’s next target? Suddenly, a thought popped into his mind. If, after Sui Dequan’s death, Jiang Zhengkai had not cracked down as hard on the drug kingpin’s henchmen, then A-Xiu probably would’ve received that drug shipment from Zhao Renchu and lived. If that were really the case, then could he himself also be culpable in A-Xiu’s death?
“Hey, did you lose your wits overnight?” asked A-Jiao as she waved her hand in front of his face. “Why are you staring at your food instead of eating it?”
“Oh, haha, right, I should eat breakfast,” replied Jiang Zhengkai as he got up to softly kiss A-Jiao’s cheek. He then scurried back to the dining chair.
“Eww!” A-Jiao’s face started blushing as she rubbed her cheek and sat down at the dining table as well.
Jiang Zhengkai called a taxi to pick them up. He had the taxi drop A-Jiao off at her preschool first before having bring him to the sub-bureau. As soon as he saw Liu Na in the office, he asked, “So, how is everything at the hospital? Has everything been prepared for A-Lian?”
“Just about, Inspector Jiang!” Liu Na responded. “Oh, we also have information on A-Xiu’s last three wires. The first one originated from this city, but the other two originated from the provincial capital.”
“Excellent! Where’s Xiaoqiang?” Jiang Zhengkai asked when he looked over and saw the young man’s empty desk.
“He’s not here yet,” Liu Na replied.
“Alright then. Have him come see me as soon as he arrives,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he headed into his office. He was already busy concocting a plan to “coax the snake from its den,” so to speak. If his hypothesis earlier in the morning was correct, and the serial killer did in fact consider Jiang Zhengkai to be responsible for A-Xiu’s death, then the killer should appear if Jiang Zhengkai went to the alley to solicit a prostitute. As he thought things over, he reviewed the case file one more time. The more he looked at the evidence, the more he thought his hypothesis had merit. Human beings tended to act that way. No matter who you were, the more you persisted in a particular line of thinking, the more correct that line of thinking seemed to be.
“Were you looking for me, Inspector Jiang?” an out-of-breath Lu Xiaoqiang asked as he ran into Jiang Zhengkai’s office. “A… A-Hui’s residence… I’ve found it! Unfortunately, she never came back last night. Sergeant Zhang and I were there the entire night surveilling the place.”
“Really?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he motioned for Lu Xiaoqiang to sit down. “Did you assign personnel to continue the surveillance?”
“Yes,” said Lu Xiaoqiang as he caught his breath. “But this A-Hui woman is very careful! Even though she recently rented the place, she doesn’t always go back. She often stays with some of her fellow prostitute friends.”
“So you’re saying she doesn’t really have a fixed residence?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he rapped the table with his knuckles.
“Yes,” Lu Xiaoqiang nodded. “In addition, A-Hui and several other prostitutes came to a rather innovative agreement. They solicit customers in the alley, but they won’t actually perform services there. They’ll only do them at their residences outside of the alley. Furthermore, they keep watch over each other. While one is servicing a john, the other will wait in the room next door, just in case.”
“Hehe! It seems like these women are pretty good at taking care of themselves,” Jiang Zhengkai laughed sardonically. “Did A-Ping tell you all this?”
“Yes, she did,” Lu Xiaoqiang nodded.
“So is A-Hui only responsible for providing services and not soliciting johns these days?” Jiang Zhengkai asked Lu Xiaoqiang after mulling things over for a moment.
“Not really,” Lu Xiaoqiang shook his head. “Apparently, they all take turns soliciting johns.”
“How about this? You give Sergeant Zhang a call. Tell him that once they’ve spotted A-Hui, they are not to scare her off or arrest her. They need to closely monitor her movements. Make sure we don’t lose track of her!” ordered Jiang Zhengkai. After a moment’s thought, he added, “Do everything you can to ensure her safety!” Up until this point, all of the murders had occurred inside the alley. Since A-Hui had found a place to operate outside of the alley, then perhaps she was safe. At least, that’s what Jiang Zhengkai was thinking, although he wasn’t quite sure why he entertained such superstitious thoughts.
“Yes, Inspector Jiang,” affirmed Lu Xiaoqiang.
“Also, I need you to come with me to the hospital tonight. We need to go see A-Lian,” Jiang Zhengkai said as he tapped the table again. He’d been planning to share with Lu Xiaoqiang his plan to “coax the snake from its den,” but now that they’d found A-Hui, he no longer considered it a top priority. Perhaps he’d think about it again later, if there was no breakthrough with A-Hui.
As Lu Xiaoqiang walked out of his office, Jiang Zhengkai carefully reviewed one more time A-Xiu’s wire transfer records that Liu Na had provided. Of the three wires that had been sent in A-Xiu’s name after her death, the first was initiated approximately one week afterwards; the other two were sent one and two months later, respectively, from the provincial capital. What did this mean? Was it to confuse the authorities and cover the suspect’s tracks? However, the timing of the wire transfers fit very well with A-Di’s timeline of leaving and then returning to the city. Finally, Jiang Zhengkai arrived at the conclusion that the three wires sent from A-Xiu’s account after her death were most likely done by A-Di. As for why she did what she did, it was anybody’s guess.
However, how were the remaining two cases connected to the others? As Jiang Zhengkai finished considering the murders where the victims had been involved in A-Xiu’s drug ring, he naturally moved on to the two cases where the victims seemingly had no connection to it: A-Li and Liu Nanquan, and Yin Zhumei and Zhu Yuping. Why did they die? Why wasn’t he able to find a connection between A-Xiu and them? Did they have some kind of a connection with Sui Dequan and Sui Zhongyi? Is that why Sui Zhongyi was so interested in the death of A-Xiu and his three henchmen?
If one were to say that the deaths of A-Li, Liu Nanquan, Yin Zhumei, and Zhu Yuping had something to do with A-Mei, or more precisely, that someone had killed those four to avenge A-Mei, then Jiang Zhengkai would be more than skeptical. As a police officer, he didn’t believe that nine murders with one M.O. could have two different motives, unless the killer knew of both A-Xiu and A-Mei and decided to avenge both of them at the same time. If that were the case, then the person most likely to fit that profile was A-Jiao, followed by Lu Xiaoqiang.
But of these two, one was the woman he loved, and the other was his most trusted subordinate. Jiang Zhengkai didn’t believe either one of them could be the killer.