Chapter 24: Cops on the Street
With the leads he had uncovered, Jiang Zhengkai was able to successfully apprehend a rather immoral doctor. However, the murder case was still stuck in a quagmire. Yu Di’s confession confirmed Jiang Zhengkai’s intuition, that Yu Di was not the killer. Besides, it was simply a fact that Yu Di hadn’t had the time to commit those murders. Between long hours at the hospital and juggling multiple affairs, he had little time for anything else at all, much less committing a string of five murders.
It had now been two months since the first murder, yet Jiang Zhengkai still had nothing to tie the five murders together, save for the fact that all ten people had died while having sex.
Another week quickly went by, yet the status of the case was still at a standstill. However, another piece of bad news soon found its way to Jiang Zhengkai. That morning, he got a call from Zhang Nan. “Inspector Jiang, there’s this situation. I don’t know how to put it…”
“Don’t worry, you can tell me, Zhang.” By now, these two had gotten much more familiar with one another, due to all the time they spent working together on the murder case. As such, Jiang Zhengkai dispensed with Zhang Nan’s title when speaking to him now.
“It’s like this. In the past three days, there have been no women working in the alley,” Zhang Nan said anxiously over the phone.
“That’s great news!” Jiang Zhengkai responded without thinking, before the real implication of Zhang Nan’s remark sank in. His mouth opened to the size of a chicken egg. “Wait, are you saying they’ve all quit working?”
“That’s right!” Zhang Nan said helplessly. “I already spoke to A-Shun. He said it’s not that the women don’t want to work, but rather that they are afraid to work.”
“Ah, I see,” Jiang Zhengkai said with a wry smile on his face. “Hey Zhang, could you do me a favor and convince those women to go back to work?”
Zhang Nan went silent on the other side of the line for a long time before finally responding, “Uh, yeah… Jiang… I guess I’ll give it a shot.” Zhang Nan thought for a long while on how to respond. On the one hand, he didn’t want to refuse Jiang Zhengkai. On the other hand, there was no way he could do what Jiang Zhengkai had asked him to do. How could a police officer possibly go and try to convince a bunch of women to keep working as prostitutes?
Jiang Zhengkai placed the handset back in the receiver and sat at his desk with hands clasped together. He rubbed his hands together for what, to him, felt like the better part of a day. He knew ordering Zhang Nan to convince the prostitutes to go back to work was a ridiculous request. Ever since the oldest profession in the world had come into existence, there has probably never been a constable or lawman who actively implored prostitutes to continue with their profession.
After pondering over the situation for half an hour, he finally gave up and dialed the number for Yao Tianyu’s assistant. “Hello, Zhang Qian? This is Jiang Zhengkai,” he said over the phone.
“Hey, Brother Jiang. What can I do for you?” Zhang Qian cheerfully asked.
“Could… could you check to see if Commissioner Yao is available?” Jiang Zhengkai stammered.
“He’s available. Are you looking for him? Why don’t you just call his direct line?” asked Zhang Qian. She could tell Jiang Zhengkai was acting a bit weird today.
“Oh, right. Well… umm… how is his mood today?” Jiang Zhengkai probed.
“He’s in a pretty good mood today. Hehe, you screwed up again, didn’t you, Brother Jiang?” asked Zhang Qian, as she laughed with a sound like silver bells ringing.
“No! I… it’s just that… oh, forget it. I’ll call him myself,” said Jiang Zhengkai.
He told Zhang Qian he would call Yao Tianyu right away, but he wound up playing with his phone for a full fifteen minutes before he summoned the courage to call his boss and mentor.
“Hello, this is Yao Tianyu,” The Commissioner’s voice came loud and clear over the telephone.
“Commissioner… Commissioner Yao,” stuttered Jiang Zhengkai.
“What’s going on? Why are you being so formal today? What is it? Spit it out!” Yao Tianyu roared in rapid-fire succession.
“There’s a situation I want to report, sir,” Jiang Zhengkai braced himself.
“Speak!” came the crisp order from the other side.
“The Ju’an Road murder case. I’ve… I’ve made some progress,” Jiang Zhengkai softly probed.
“Good man! You’ve finally found something. Tell me, what leads have you uncovered?” Yao Tianyu was very excited to hear this. After all, it was a big case, and having the lead investigator telling him that progress had been made obviously made him very happy.
“Well… I don’t have any leads yet, and… and the prostitutes… they’ve stopped working…” Jiang Zhengkai practically closed his eyes as he said these words.
Yao Tianyu paused for a long time before finally exploding in fury. “You son of a bitch! How is prostitutes not working my problem?”
Since Yao Tianyu’s rage had already burst forth, Jiang Zhengkai immediately followed up with his question. “Well… Commissioner Yao, if… if they don’t work, then I’m afraid the local residents… they will end up dying like the last murder, so… do you think we could organize some kind of a sting operation?”
“I’m not organizing shit!” Yao Tianyu yelled as he slammed the handset back into the receiver. Jiang Zhengkai knew that his boss was now probably angrily pacing back and forth in his office right now, just like a caged wolf prowling at the zoo.
Not ten minutes later, Zhang Qian called back. “Brother Jiang, what did you tell the old man? He looks like he’s ready to bite someone’s head off right now.”
“I didn’t say anything! What are the boss’s instructions?” Jiang Zhengkai knew Yao Tianyu must have thought up of something to help him.
“Commissioner Yao said that he will order all married police officers to report for duty at the alley, starting with police couples, no exceptions. He also told me to ask you if he should report there as well?” Zhang Qian unloaded this torrent of information on Jiang Zhengkai.
“No… that’s not necessary. The missus is too old to be standing on the street like that.” He playfully told her, “Haha, thank the old man for me, Sister.”
For the first time since the advent of prostitution in China, the police has taken the lead in spurring on the sex trade. Of course, the only reason why Jiang Zhengkai and Yao Tianyu executed this operation is because they were at their wits’ end. After all, the fifth murder involved a pair of law-abiding citizens, not law-breaking prostitutes and johns. If it came time for another murder, and there were no prostitutes and johns on the street, that might just mean the killer would once again target innocent local residents. Anyway, nobody knew what would happen, so the best course of action was to prostitute away!
Seeing the alley full of staged activity, Jiang Zhengkai and Zhang Nan both breathed sighs of relief. “Are there many johns out there tonight?” asked Jiang Zhengkai. Even though there was plenty of fake activity, there was still the possibility of a very real murder. As such, Jiang Zhengkai needed to be extra vigilant, because it would be no joke if more people died.
“Don’t worry, there aren’t that many,” Zhang Nan said. “We have placed surveillance cameras at each position where our colleagues are stationed. We have also a group of officers assigned to watch over the others.”
“Okay, good,” Jiang Zhengkai nodded. “In that case, our people will put in the extra shifts during normal times, and then the bureau headquarters will swap us out once we think we are due for another murder.”
“Alright, no problem, Inspector Jiang,” Zhang Nan agreed.
Time flies when you’re having fun, and before they knew it, the police had already been playing “prostitution” in this alley for a week. Of course, they weren’t really engaged in the business of prostitution. It was more of a “by us, for us” operation. What that meant was husbands would “hire” their own wives. A week went by without another murder occurring. According to the frequency of the previous murders, the alley was already past due for another murder. Jiang Zhengkai was starting to get frustrated. He had to consider the possibility that someone had leaked information on their sting operation.
Nevertheless, not having any more murders was something that he should be grateful for. At the end of the day, it was a good thing to not have to worry about adding another pair of skeletons to the sub-bureau’s morgue.
This morning, Jiang Zhengkai stayed in his office. He went back and reviewed the case files of all five murders. Since there hadn’t been a new murder, then perhaps he could find something useful in the old cases. First of all, the pattern of one murder every half month had been broken. The time elapsed since the last murder was well over twenty days.
As of now, the only thing tying all of these murders together was the fact that ten people had died while having sex. Otherwise, the first case involved Xiaomei and an unknown male victim, with Xiaomei being one of A-Jiao’s friends. The second case involved A-Hua and Yin Tao, with A-Hua being one of A-Jiao’s friends. The third case involved A-Li and Liu Nanquan. According to A-Shun, A-Li and A-Jiao were acquaintances. The fourth case involved A-Xiu and an unknown male victim. Although the police was able to confirm A-Xiu’s identity, they had still been unable to identify the male victim. The fifth case involved Yin Zhumei and Zhu Yuping, two local residents. All in all, it appeared that the first four cases were all related to the sex trade, and the female victims were all acquainted with A-Jiao. Did that mean A-Jiao was somehow connected to those first four murders?
At this point in his thought process, Jiang Zhengkai plopped back into his chair. He’d been driving to Ju’an Estates every night for the last few days, waiting for A-Jiao to come back home. He didn’t know if he did it out of professional necessity or because he missed A-Jiao. He didn’t believe A-Jiao was an active participant in these murders, but evidence showed that she’d had a personal relationship with four out of the five female victims. Something told Jiang Zhengkai that if he wanted to crack the case, he had to find A-Jiao.