Chapter 30: A-Jiao’s Story
The police arrived on the scene soon after A-Meng called 911. A semi-conscious Wei Xin was quickly taken by ambulance to the municipal hospital. Because she’d sustained her injuries while in the line of duty, the police bureau was easily able to secure a private room for her at the hospital once she came out of the intensive care unit. As luck would have it, she was assigned the exact same room that A-Jiao had stayed in previously. Perhaps it was fate, or perhaps it was Heaven’s will.
It wasn’t long before Jiang Zhengkai appeared in Wei Xin’s hospital room. He hadn’t been present when they’d found her, since he’d been attending a meeting at the municipal bureau headquarters. Due to the multiple questions surrounding the alley homicides case, Yao Tianyu decided to assume personal control over the investigation. Yet, on the very first day of his taking control of the case, the so-called “Policewoman Rape Case” appeared. Perhaps Heaven was sending Yao Tianyu a message that he shouldn’t expect to find any more success with the case than Jiang Zhengkai had.
Jiang Zhengkai sat next to Wei Xin on her hospital bed, his face full of shame and regret. Based on the photographs taken by his first-responder colleagues, the person who attacked Wei Xin was most likely the same one who’d attacked A-Jiao. However, he was certain that the crime scene was not where the attack had occurred. Furthermore, because Wei Xin’s body had been covered with grime and urine, there’d been no way to effectively collect DNA evidence. This meant that even if the police were to arrest the person who had attacked A-Jiao, as long as he denied all accusations, the police would have to let him go due to a lack of evidence.
As he looked at the unconscious Wei Xin, Jiang Zhengkai quickly became lost in his own thoughts. He felt as if the person lying in front of him were A-Jiao, and that reminded him of the time he’d given A-Jiao that gentle kiss on the cheek.
“Jiang, how is she?” While he’d been daydreaming, Yao Tianyu and Dr. Wang had walked into the room.
“Hello, Commissioner Yao. She’s still unconscious,” Jiang Zhengkai softly replied.
“Ai, how many times do I have to you guys to be careful? How did it come to this?” admonished Yao Tianyu. “When did she go missing?”
“We’re still looking into it, sir. It was most likely the night of the murder,” Jiang Zhengkai responded. “I estimate she was attacked shortly after the murder occurred. The on-site surveillance team saw her leave the building, but never saw her return.”
“Alright, keep looking then,” Yao Tianyu said as he shifted his attention to Dr. Wang. “Elder Sister, thank you for taking care of things over here.”
“Don’t mention it!” Dr. Wang replied. “I believe Wei Xin’s present condition…” She paused for a second and looked over at Jiang Zhengkai, but ultimately decided to finish her sentence. “I believe her present condition is very similar to a patient we had last month. If anything, Wei Xin’s condition is even more serious than that of the last patient.”
“So you’re saying there was a similar case just recently?” Yao Tianyu looked at Jiang Zhengkai.
“Well… last time… last time was…” Jiang Zhengkai mumbled and muttered as he described A-Jiao’s case to Yao Tianyu. “The attacker’s M.O. was virtually identical in both cases. However, we do not yet possess solid evidence, so we don’t have probable cause to arrest the suspect.”
Not following Jiang Zhengkai’s lead, Yao Tianyu decided to ask, “So the other case involved that woman from the Hot Pot City Incident?”
“Yes… yes, sir,” Jiang Zhengkai replied.
“Alright! Since we already have a suspect, the next step is to closely monitor his movements,” said Yao Tianyu. He stepped out of the room, deep in thought. He understood the difficulties Jiang Zhengkai faced, so he wasn’t going to press him too hard.
Although Wei Xin’s case was a very important one, the police still had to investigate it in accordance with standard police procedure. In a society governed by the rule of law, the police could not do as they pleased, even if they did bend the rules now and then… Regardless, Jiang Zhengkai was a by-the-book kind of cop, and would never cut corners during an investigation.
Documents on the victims of the sixth murder had found their way to his desk. The male victim’s name was Cao Shucong. He was a salesman at a foreign trading company. The female victim’s name was A-Di. She was a prostitute who had just recently moved into the city.
This was yet another confusing case for Jiang Zhengkai. According to information unearthed by the investigation, Cao Shucong had been a frequent customer of the sex trade, although he’d rarely visited the alley. As someone who’d had to regularly entertain clients, he’d been quite accustomed to procuring special “services” for those clients. However, after the city had cracked down on the sex trade, he was no longer able to take his clients to the usual, more upscale houses of pleasure, such as karaoke bars and massage parlors. As for A-Di, she had just arrived in the city three days ago, which meant she likely hadn’t had much contact with anyone here. Having no discernible connections with the previous cases, this case looked as if it was entirely independent of the other ones.
That evening, Jiang Zhengkai went to the hospital to visit Wei Xin, but she remained unconscious. At 8 PM, he parked his car outside Uncle Cai’s noodle shop, where he ate a bowl of noodles for dinner. He then drove to Ju’an Estates and waited for A-Jiao for a while before turning in for the night. These activities had already become part of his evening routine.
Thanks to Dr. Wang’s careful treatment, Wei Xin finally woke up after three days of unconsciousness. However, she had an extreme negative reaction to any mention of the night when she’d been attacked, as though she were actively suppressing her memories of it. Unfortunately, her present mental state created a huge problem for Jiang Zhengkai and Yao Tianyu, as they needed her to identify her attacker before they had sufficient probable cause to arrest the suspect.
Besides sleeping, all that Wei Xin did these days was to stare blankly at the ceiling as she lay on her hospital bed. Neither the hospital staff nor her visiting colleagues could get her to say a word. Sometimes she would cry hysterically by herself. Perhaps prostitutes are just more mentally resilient than normal women.
That night, Jiang Zhengkai slowly drove out of the hospital parking lot. When he left, Wei Xin was still blankly staring at the ceiling. Inside the hospital, the silhouette of a person that Jiang Zhengkai had longed to see silently appeared outside Wei Xin’s room.
“Hello, can I come in?” A-Jiao asked as she quietly opened the door. Hearing no response, she quietly walked into the room.
“How is your recovery? I’m A-Jiao. Do you remember me?” A-Jiao quietly said as she sat down beside Wei Xin. “Don’t be so down. I do this for a living, but I’m still alive, aren’t I?”
Wei Xin recognized A-Jiao’s voice and slowly turned her head, her face pale as a ghost. At that moment, perhaps only a prostitute, a woman who dealt with the threat of sexual violence on a daily basis, could truly understand what Wei Xin had been through.
“I know you’ve been hurt, but what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I wasn’t born and raised to be a prostitute. I used to have a family, too: a father, a mother, and even a sister. I was happy once, but that happiness is now long gone, and when my happiness left, I also thought about dying…” A-Jiao sat next to Wei Xin and quietly told her story.
“When I was 18, my parents divorced. Afterwards, my mom became emotionally unstable.
“When I was 19, I met a man. He said he loved me, and I naively believed him. I thought I had found someone who loved me, but I was wrong. Soon, I became pregnant, and when I could no longer satisfy his needs, he went and found other women.
“On my 20th birthday, I waited with my mother for him to eat dinner with us, but he didn’t come. I called him, but all that he said to me was that he wanted to break up. I was eight months pregnant at the time, and I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him, so I went looking for him. I found him with another woman in our bed. Well, maybe that bed wasn’t mine to begin with.
“That woman called me a bitch, a whore, so I hit her. But not only did that man not stand up for me, he helped the other woman beat me. When Mom finally found me hours later, I’d almost had the life beaten out of me. As a result of the beating, I had a miscarriage. That was the last emotional straw for my mom, so she took her own life.”
At this point, A-Jiao glanced over at Wei Xin and saw that her eyes had become watery, even though what A-Jiao had said had had nothing to do with Wei Xin. Alas, women are strange, emotional creatures.
“So, I thought about killing myself too,” A-Jiao calmly told Wei Xin…
“I’d lost my mother. I’d lost my child. I’d also lost the man I loved. My father had left our family and never spoken to me again. I felt like life no longer had any meaning for me. So one day, I went to the seashore and sat there for a while, watching the ebb and flow of the waves. I was just about to jump into the water and end this wretched life of mine. That’s when a random woman sat down next to me, looked at me contemptuously, and said, ‘So you want to die, little girl? How about you give me all of your valuables, since you aren’t going to be taking them with you into the next life anyway?’ I can still remember the suffocating reek of her cheap perfume.
“I figured she had a point, so I gave her all of my stuff, but she didn’t leave. She just asked me, ‘Since you’re willing to let go of your valuables, why can’t you also let go of the pain in your heart?’
“I didn’t know how to answer her, so I just shook my head.
“She kept looking at me and continued, ‘What are men? Let me tell you, they are creatures that don’t deserve a woman’s love. If you died, he wouldn’t remember how good you were to him. He’d only laugh at you for being stupid enough to kill yourself. Since that’s the case, why don’t you do yourself a favor and keep on living?’
“I thought what she said made a lot of sense! If I hadn’t been so stubbornly in love with him, then perhaps my child and my mother would still be alive. It was all because of me that they died, but at least I was here to mourn them. Who would mourn for me after I died? No one! The only thing that man would say is, ‘Look, that stupid woman killed herself!’ So I decided to get revenge.
“I know what you’re thinking. No, I wasn’t going to do anything to harm the man I’d once loved, since I had already let go of all of my love as well as my hatred. No, my revenge was to live the rest of my life as happily and carelessly as I could.”
A-Jiao paused for a moment and looked at Wei Xin with her big, blinking eyes before saying, “How about you? You were taken and forced to have sex with a man you didn’t like. That happens to me multiple times a day. Other than that, what have you lost? You haven’t lost anything. So why must you dwell on the one painful memory in your life?”
Upon hearing those last words from A-Jiao, Wei Xin’s tears finally started gushing out…