Chapter 20: Who’s Paying the Hospital Bill
Just before lunch, a nurse from the in-patient department walked into A-Jiao’s hospital room and handed her a billing invoice for her hospital stay.
“Whoa! Is it really that much?” a startled A-Jiao asked as she read the invoice. She bit her lip. “Could I get a 20% discount?”
“You’re kidding, right? This is a hospital, not a flea market,” the nurse retorted, shooting A-Jiao a look. “It’s thanks to a special request by Dr. Wang that we’re allowing you to pay your bill at the end of your stay. Besides, you’re not the one on the hook for the bill, so there’s no need to be so nervous.” With that, the nurse walked out of the room without a second glance.
“What the heck? I’m not on the hook for the bill? Who’s paying then, you?” A-Jiao muttered softly behind the nurse’s back as she made a face at her. “If I’m not responsible for the bill… Wait a second, is that idiot cop paying for my stay then?” The more she thought about it, the redder her face became. Could it truly be that there was a man out there who was willing to spend so much money on her? She stood up in that empty hospital room, forcefully blew her nose into a tissue, picked up her clutch, and headed straight for Dr. Wang’s office.
“Enter!” Dr. Wang politely called out at the sound of someone knocking on her door. “I’m here. Please enter!”
A-Jiao felt a bit shy as she opened the office door. “Dr. Wang, I… I’m being discharged today, so… I thought…”
“Oh, it’s you. Come on in!” Dr. Wang rose slightly out of her chair and warmly welcomed her visitor in. “Come and sit, A-Jiao.” A-Jiao was wearing a simple yet elegant outfit today; together with her pale tender skin, it gave people the impression that she was a refined office lady or a recent college graduate.
“Dr. Wang, thank you for treating me,” A-Jiao said as she sat down at her desk. “I… I heard from the in-patient department nurse that I’m not responsible for my hospital bill, so I thought…”
“No need to thank me. It is my duty to properly treat all of my patients,” Dr. Wang said with a smile. Had she not known A-Jiao’s true occupation, she never would’ve guessed that the woman sitting in front of her was a prostitute. “As for your medical expenses, you needn’t worry about them. Officer Jiang will stop by later to pay for them.”
Dr. Wang’s face grew somewhat serious, although her tone remained polite. “A-Jiao, find a normal job, okay? If you were to suffer another attack like the one that landed you here, well… You need to about the future while you’re still young.”
“Oh…” A-Jiao’s face turned to a shade of bright red. She said softly, “Dr. Wang, thank you. My hospital bill, is Officer Jiang paying for it… personally?”
“Yes,” Dr. Wang nodded. “He is a good police officer. I think perhaps he owes you something, or else he wouldn’t pay so much money out of pocket,” she said with a smile. She knew the woman in front of her had fallen for Jiang Zhengkai. Although A-Jiao was a prostitute, she was a human being first, and she had human emotions just like everyone else.
“Thank you again, Dr. Wang,” A-Jiao said as she stood up from her chair. “I will remember what you’ve said to me today. However, I was wondering if you could grant me one request.” A mischievous smile appeared on her face.
“I’ll have to see whether or not your request violates my personal and professional principles,” Dr. Wang replied. A-Jiao really was quite an eccentric and clever woman. Why on earth did she have to choose such an unseemly profession?
“It’s just that… Could you not tell Officer Jiang the dates of my monthly follow-up visits?” A-Jiao asked Dr. Wang in earnest.
“Yes, I can agree to that. You have a right to privacy as a patient, after all,” Dr. Wang nodded. She didn’t understand why A-Jiao would bring up such a request. Perhaps she was afraid Officer Jiang would come bother her during her follow-up appointments, looking to be reimbursed for the medical expenses he paid on her behalf?
“Thank you so much!” A-Jiao exclaimed, as she happily left Dr. Wang’s office.
That afternoon, after Jiang Zhengkai had finished up all of his work, he hurriedly left his office for the hospital. After waiting in line for what seemed like the better part of a day, he finally reached the hospital’s in-patient department’s payment window. He took out his debit card, as well as the hospital invoice, and slid them under the window.
“Thank you. Please wait a moment.” The cashier quickly looked up the invoice balance and then proceeded to remove 600 yuan from the cash register, which she gave to Jiang Zhengkai, along with his debit card and a pile of receipts. “You’re all done. Next!”
“Umm… Miss? Has there been some kind of a mistake?” Jiang Zhengkai asked the cashier in confusion as he looked at the money in his hand. “Why did you give me change?” The debit card had a PIN, and unless the cashier was some kind of mind reader, there would have been no way she knew what his PIN was. Therefore, Jiang Zhengkai was certain the money she handed him did not come from his bank account.
“You didn’t know you had a positive balance in your hospital account?” asked the cashier with a strange look in her eyes. “The system shows that you prepaid 44,000 yuan, while your medical expenses totaled 43,400 yuan. Therefore, I’m giving back to you the 600 yuan that you prepaid but did not use. Is that not correct?”
“But…” Jiang Zhengkai was momentarily taken aback by what the cashier had told him, but he quickly regained his composure. “Could you tell me when the money was deposited into the account?” He pulled out his police badge for the cashier to see.
“I’m sorry, Comrade Police Officer, but I am not at liberty to provide you that information. Besides, the system doesn’t track that kind of information,” the cashier coolly replied.
“I see!” Jiang Zhengkai helplessly took the money and left the payment window.
“Young man, if I remember correctly, it was a girl who paid for you,” said an old security guard in the hallway. He had quietly approached Jiang Zhengkai after seeing the expression on his face. “At around noon today, a young girl came by to prepay the bill. She actually made quite a scene arguing with the cashier. She eventually went back to the ward for something else before she decided to leave.”
“Thank you, sir!” Jiang Zhengkai replied.
“Don’t mention it! She was a good girl, so you take good care of her,” the old guard said with a smile. “I can see the two of you are a couple. You came by to pay for one of your parents, huh?”
“Uhh… hehe… yeah!” Jiang Zhengkai sheepishly answered. The security guards at this hospital sure were observant! Perhaps it was Jiang Zhengkai who needed to get his eyes checked out…
“Dr. Wang!” Jiang Zhengkai brought a whole laundry list of questions with him as he entered Dr. Wang’s office. “Did A-Jiao come talk to you around noon today?” he asked directly.
“Yes, she did,” Dr. Wang replied with a smile. “You really are quite a detective, aren’t you? How did you find out?”
“Because I just went to pay the bill.” Jiang Zhengkai smiled sardonically.
“Really? Did you bring enough money?” Dr. Wang asked with sincere concern. “If you’re short, I can lend you the balance.”
“That’s not it. Someone’s already paid the bill,” Jiang Zhengkai explained as he took out the receipts and 600 yuan in change for Dr. Wang to see.
“Someone’s paid already?” Dr. Wang looked astonishingly at the receipts. “Well, after lunch today, A-Jiao rushed over to my office and said she need another box of band-aids. She also told the nurse to give her another saline infusion. When she left, I heard her saying something like ‘by adding these two things, there would be enough money’.”
“Band-aids… enough money…” Jiang Zhengkai tried to make sense of what Dr. Wang had just told him. He then looked down at the receipts, and suddenly a lightbulb went off in his head. “That damned girl!” he muttered as he lept out of his chair. Enough money… 600 yuan… She went through all that trouble just so she could pay him the going rate for a one-night stand.
“What’s going on?” asked Dr. Wang, baffled at Jiang Zhengkai’s reaction.
“Nothing! Don’t worry about it. Thank you, doctor!” Jiang Zhengkai said before fleeing the office. Surely he wasn’t going to explain to Old Lady Wang that a prostitute gave a people’s police officer the money for a one-night stand.
Jiang Zhengkai parked his car underneath A-Jiao’s condo before walking up to the building and calling her condo unit using the building’s digital intercom system. A-Jiao’s voice played on the intercom. “Hello, I’m not home right now. If it’s Uncle Policeman, please press 1; otherwise, please press 2. If it’s urgent, please leave a message and I will contact you as soon as I return.”
Jiang Zhengkai pressed 1 without thinking. A-Jiao’s voice started up again on the intercom. “Uncle Policeman, I’ve already given you the money. 600 yuan for a one-night stand. It’s a fair price, if you ask around!”
Ha! She’d done it on purpose! Standing there outside the condo building, Jiang Zhengkai felt like he was going berserk. He raised his fist and was about to viciously hit the intercom, but thought better of it. Then he pressed 2, and once again A-Jiao’s voice came on the intercom. “Hello, I’m not home right now. Please leave a message.” Then came a click and silence.
“Motherfuck!” Jiang Zhengkai cursed under his breath. However, by the time he looked back up at the intercom, he couldn’t help but laugh out loud.