Chapter 22: The Taiwanese Noodle Shop
Somehow, time always manages to fly away without one ever noticing. Wei Xin spent three full days investigating the couple who had been killed in the latest homicide. Finally, on the fourth day, her full investigation report found its way onto Jiang Zhengkai’s desk.
The male victim’s name was Zhu Yuping. He was a physics teacher at a local middle school. He was described as dutiful and honest, and although he taught a subject in the sciences, he was also quite fond of traditional Chinese calligraphy, and so had very beautiful handwriting. Therefore, every Chinese New Year, all of his colleagues and neighbors would ask him to write them blessing scrolls that they could paste on their doors and windows. He was well-liked, and no one who knew him spoke ill of him.
The female victim’s name was Yin Zhumei. She was a nurse at the local general hospital and the wife of Zhu Yuping. She was also beautiful, clever, and competent, although she did have a bit of a temper. Nevertheless, she excelled at work, so everyone in her department spoke highly of her positive attitude and enthusiasm. The only negative aspect about her that Wei Xin was able to dig up was a rumor that she was romantically involved with a surgeon named Yu Di.
“Yu Di, surgeon…” Jiang Zhengkai turned things over in his head as he read the report. Could it be that this Yu Di was the serial killer? He looked up at Wei Xin. “This Yu Di, what shift did he have on the night of the murder?”
“It was his day off,” Wei Xin replied. “I also compared his work schedule with the other murders, and it looked like he was off on the days of the other murders as well.”
“Is that right?” Jiang Zhengkai asked. However, he still had some doubts. Yu Di might have had a motive to kill Zhu Yuping and Yin Zhumei, but what about the previous murders? What would his motives have been for those?
“Should we bring in Yu Di?” Wei Xin suggested as she looked at Jiang Zhengkai’s expression.
“Which shift is he on today?” asked Jiang Zhengkai.
“He’s on the night shift today,” Wei Xin double checked her notebooks before answering.
“Alright, you and I will go to the hospital tonight to take a look at this suspect of ours.” Jiang Zhengkai decided it would best not to take any actions that would alert the suspect. Therefore, he wanted to visit the area himself, to see just what type of person this Yu Di was.
When it was time for dinner, Wei Xin returned to Jiang Zhengkai’s office and quietly knocked on the door. “Inspector Jiang, it’s time for dinner. Want to join me?”
“Uh, yeah, sounds good,” Jiang Zhengkai replied as he got up from his chair. “Alright, let’s go grab some dinner!”
“What do you like to eat?” Wei Xin asked with a sweet smile. “I’m good with just about everything. How about I buy you a bowl of noodles?”
“Noodles?” Hearing that word took Jiang Zhengkai’s mind back to another time and place.
“Uncle Cai! Can you get us two bowls of hand-cut noodles?”
“Well, I’m back, aren’t I? And I missed you too, Uncle Cai!”
“So you’re saying every time I bring a man, you’re going to pay for my meal?”
“Uncle Cai! Did you see that? He stole all of my flour paste…”
“Inspector Jiang?” Wei Xin waved her hand in front of Jiang Zhengkai’s face. “Inspector Jiang, are you alright?”
“Yeah, I… I’m okay. Let’s go!” Jiang Zhengkai said, as his train of thought returned to the present. It had been a long time since he’d last seen A-Jiao. Humans are peculiar animals. When A-Jiao had been with him, he’d all but ignored her, but now that she was gone, he found himself constantly thinking about her. In fact, a part of him felt as if he had lost the most precious thing in his life.
Under Wei Xin’s guidance, Jiang Zhengkai walked into an authentic Taiwanese noodle shop. The waiter politely led the two of them to a table. They sat facing each other on a pair of soft-cushioned chairs. The entire place had a very warm and gentle ambience. Even the music being played gave off a soft and velvety feeling.
“What will you two guests be having tonight?” the waiter asked.
“Give me a bowl of hand-cut noodles!” Jiang Zhengkai crisply answered without even looking at the menu.
“Sorry, sir, but we don’t have hand-cut noodles here,” the waiter replied.
“Oh, I see,” Jiang Zhengkai said with a frown, before looking over at Wei Xin.
“Inspector Jiang, do you eat cow tendon?” Wei Xin quickly came to the rescue.
“Yes,” Jiang Zhengkai nodded.
“In that case, give us two bowls of cow tendon noodles: half tendon, half meat,” Wei Xin placed the order with the waiter. “And also, give us a side of seasoned beef, a side of seasoned tripe, and a side of squid balls.”
“Very good. Anything else for you two?” the waiter asked after writing down Wei Xin’s order.
“Oh right, give me a bowl of fermented flour paste,” Jiang Zhengkai spoke up again, after seeing Wei Xin had finished placing the order.
“Sorry… we don’t have fermented flour paste either,” the waiter awkwardly answered Jiang Zhengkai. “My apologies, but we’re a Taiwanese-style noodle joint.”
“Wait, what? Taiwanese don’t eat flour paste?” Jiang Zhengkai asked the waiter in shock. He reached over and gulped down a mouthful of water from a glass on the table.
“That’s right,” the waiter nodded. He sheepishly added, “Also, that water there is used to rinse tableware… but don’t worry! That water’s clean!”
“Okay, okay! Just go already!” Wei Xin saw the weird look on Jiang Zhengkai’s face and lost no time in sending the waiter away.
“Motherfuck! Maybe I like drinking rinsing water!” Jiang Zhengkai cursed as soon as the waiter had left. He proceeded to chug down the entire cup of water.
“Inspector Jiang! That water’s…” Wei Xin started as she watched Jiang Zhengkai down the entire cup. She nervously yelled, “Not clean! Waiter, waiter! Give us two cups of orange juice!”
“Ai!” Jiang Zhengkai looked at the empty cup in his hand and forcefully threw it aside. However, in the glass’s reflection, he felt as if he could see A-Jiao’s face. She was already convulsing with laughter. “Haha, you idiot! That’s rinsing water! Haha!”
“What’s wrong, Inspector Jiang?” From across the table, Wei Xin looked at Jiang Zhengkai staring blankly at an empty cup. She nervously laughed and asked, “Are you not feeling well?”
“No, I’m fine,” Jiang Zhengkai regained his composure. “I’m sorry for making a fool of myself. It’s just my first time in a Taiwanese noodle shop,” he said with a shrug.
“So you prefer hand-cut noodles?” Wei Xin asked Jiang Zhengkai, her cheeks blushing. “Inspector Jiang, you shouldn’t always eat street stall food. That food’s not clean. You’ll get sick if you eat too much of it.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Jiang Zhengkai rigorously nodded his head. However, there was another girl’s voice whispering in his ear. “Did you used to be a kindergarten teacher or something?” A sly smile soon spread across his face.
At around 10 o’clock that evening, Jiang Zhengkai parked his car outside the hospital where Yu Di worked. He looked at Wei Xin sitting beside him. “When we go in,” he said softly, “I’m going to pretend to be a patient. I’ll try to figure out a way to get Yu Di’s fingerprint or hair sample.”
“Understood, Inspector Jiang,” Wei Xin replied. A split second later, Jiang Zhengkai grabbed a hold of his left thumb and pulled on it with all his might. A crack sound came from his hand as he successfully dislocated his thumb.
“Inspector Jiang!” Wei Xin yelled nervously.
He just waved his hand. “Let’s go!” By now, cold sweat had already appeared on his forehead. Damn, it hurts like hell!
The two of them were successfully admitted to the emergency room. They walked in the direction of the emergency surgery call room, but as they rounded the corner, they heard the sound of a man and a woman frolicking inside the call room. Mixed in with the noises was the woman softly calling for help. The call room’s door then suddenly flung open.
Jiang Zhengkai quickly pulled Wei Xin back, and the two of them hid behind the corner for a while. They soon heard the sound of footsteps down the hallway, which grew fainter and fainter. Clearly, the people who had come out of the call room were walking in the opposite direction.
“Inspector Jiang, that’s Yu Di right there,” Wei Xin quietly whispered to Jiang Zhengkai as she pointed out the male doctor walking in front of them. The man looked to be about 5’9”, and was well-proportioned, at least when viewed from the back, but was definitely not muscular in any sense of the word. He held the female nurse’s hand in his own, and her body twisted back and forth as she followed Yu Di down the hallway. However, she kept making quiet laughter and playful calls for help.
“Come on, let’s follow them,” Jiang Zhengkai said softly. He paused to pop his thumb back into its socket. With things developing the way they were, there was no longer a need to feign injury. The more important thing right now was to find out what those two were up to!
Yu Di and the woman next to him obviously did not catch on to the fact that they were being followed. The two of them arrived at the hospital’s pharmacy, laughing all the way. Soon after they entered the pharmacy, the door closed behind them with a soft click.