Chapter 38: A Chance Encounter
Ever since The Bald Wolf resurfaced, Jiang Zhengkai grew increasingly restless and anxious. Although no new murders had occurred in the alley, he still felt more and more ill at ease. That weekend was the one-week anniversary of Wei Xin’s death. Jiang Zhengkai decided he would visit Wei Xin’s grave early in the morning to pay his respects before heading over to do some overtime at the sub-bureau. When he thought of this deceased young woman, Jiang Zhengkai felt more than a little bit of guilt in his heart. Perhaps it’s because ever since his wife and daughter died, he couldn’t bear the thought of seeing a woman get hurt again.
Even though it was early summer, the wind blowing down from the nearby mountains was still quite cool. Jiang Zhengkai clutched a bouquet of flowers as he slowly walked step by step towards Wei Xin’s grave. As he approached Wei Xin’s gravesite, he found a young woman standing in front of Wei Xin’s tombstone. She had short hair and was wearing a bomber jacket over a long dress while sporting large sunglasses that covered half her face. Because she bowed her head in respect, Jiang Zhengkai could barely make out any part of her face at all. Nevertheless, Jiang Zhengkai felt this woman’s figure seemed very familiar, except he wasn’t quite sure of her identity. Was it A-Jiao? People are often like this. When someone you’ve longed for day and night finally stand in front of you, you hesitate and refuse to believe your eyes. Still, one shouldn’t be too hard on Jiang Zhengkai. After all, the A-Jiao standing there now exuded the quiet grace of a gentle lady, not at all displaying the eccentric willfulness that defined her personality during her time as a street prostitute.
Jiang Zhengkai placed the flowers he had been holding before Wei Xin’s tombstone and quietly stood next to A-Jiao. The elegant aroma of A-Jiao’s perfume found its way to Jiang Zhengkai’s nostrils. He found the smell to be very pleasing to the nose. Again, he felt the aroma to be very familiar but also very foreign. Perhaps it was because he was used to breathing in the sterile smell of the hospital when he was in A-Jiao’s presence. A-Jiao had not noticed Jiang Zhengkai was standing right beside her because she had closed her eyes in prayer. Only when she had finished her prayer for Wei Xin did she turn around to leave. Right at that moment, however, Jiang Zhengkai just happened to stand directly in her way.
“Excuse me please,” said A-Jiao softly to Jiang Zhengkai. Although she could hear her nervous heart thumping, she nevertheless resolved to speak.
“A-Jiao…” As Jiang Zhengkai heard her voice, he looked at her with heavy leaden eyes. He felt this voice sounded so very familiar, yet it was also missing something.
“A-Jiao? Sorry, I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong person,” A-Jiao replied in her newfound gentle voice.
“Oh, I see,” Jiang Zhengkai replied, but he still didn’t move out of the way. “Miss, you look a lot like a friend of mine, who is also an important witness in a case I’m investigating. Could you be so kind as to show me your ID?” Jiang Zhengkai said as he took out his own police badge.
“Ai… fine!” A-Jiao impatiently sighed. She didn’t know if she sighed because she was disappointed or because she was relieved. This stupid man actually didn’t recognize who she was. A-Jiao reached into her purse, took our her ID card, and showed it to Jiang Zhengkai. A-Jiao’s fingernails were now neatly trimmed and had only a thin coat of clear nail polish, which was a far cry from the motley array of colors she used to display on her nails.
Jiang Zhengkai looked at A-Jiao’s hand and felt somewhat disappointed. Was she really not A-Jiao? He took her ID and saw the name “Ren Ziyuan” written on it clear as day. Jiang Zhengkai looked at the ID card more closely to see if it was a fake. Nope, it was real! He then politely returned the ID back to A-Jiao and asked, “Could you also tell me where you work?”
“Do I really have to answer that question?” A-Jiao impatiently asked as she snatched back her ID. Because of the large sunglasses, Jiang Zhengkai could not see that familiar pair of mischievous eyes.
“Jiang!” Yao Tianyu’s voice boomed from the stone steps behind them, “Oh hey, Miss Ren, are you here to see Wei Xin as well?”
“Uh, yeah,” A-Jiao recognized Yao Tianyu, so she pursed her lips and smiled, “Uncle Yao, you… oh… hehe, I was her friend.” She then turned around and looked at Wei Xin’s tombstone with great affection.
“The two of you…?” Yao Tianyu saw A-Jiao and Jiang Zhengkai awkwardly standing there, so he decided to break the ice for them, “Well, I guess introductions are in order. This is the most capable investigative task force commander under my command, Inspector Jiang Zhengkai. This is my grandson’s preschool teacher, Miss Ren Ziyuan.”
“Oh! Hehe, sorry, Miss Ren. I apologize for the inconvenience my questions may have caused you,” said Jiang Zhengkai. Having heard what Yao Tianyu just said, he had no choice but to temporarily give up on the idea that the woman standing in front of him was A-Jiao.
“Don’t worry about it!” A-Jiao smiled at Jiang Zhengkai, “I’m sure Officer Jiang was only doing his job.” However, in her mind, she was yelling, “You idiot! Imbecile! Moron!”
“Doing his job, you say?” Yao Tianyu teased as he looked at the weird expression on Jiang Zhengkai’s face, “Perhaps… if that job consisted of being mesmerized by Miss Ren’s beauty, haha!”
“Commissioner Yao! Boss! That was entirely inappropriate!” Jiang Zhengkai complained as as his face turned bright red.
“Hehe!” A-Jiao used her hand to cover her mouth as she laughed out loud. In that moment, she looked like the quintessential well-mannered daughter of a humble family. “Commissioner Yao, you flatter me. I’m afraid I’m wouldn’t be good enough for such a handsome man as Officer Jiang. Besides, this is Wei Xin’s final resting place. I think it best not to joke around in such a solemn place, no?”
“Yes, Miss Ren is right,” Yao Tianyu agreed with what A-Jiao had just said as he reassumed a dignified demeanor. Instead of being offended at A-Jiao for being critical of his comments, it actually made him like her even more. She was polite, knowledgeable, and classy. She was truly a wonderful girl in his eyes!
A-Jiao quickly bid a polite farewell to both Yao Tianyu and Jiang Zhengkai and slowly walked down the stone steps. Jiang Zhengkai’s gaze followed A-Jiao all the way down to the bottom. When she reached flat ground again, a well-built man walked up beside her. The two of them whispered something in each others’ ears before walking off together towards the parking lot. Jiang Zhengkai noticed the man wore a pair of heavy duty combat boots on his feet.
“Still looking?” Yao Tianyu quietly asked Jiang Zhengkai as he stood solemnly in front of Wei Xin’s grave, “If you like her, I can talk to Principal Li once I get back. Miss Ren really is a good girl.”
“Ok!” Jiang Zhengkai agreed, not knowing how to explain his thoughts to Yao Tianyu. He then stood next to Yao Tianyu, and together they paid their respects to Wei Xin.
Jiang Zhengkai offered to drive Yao Tianyu back home. Before Yao Tianyu could get out of the car, Jiang Zhengkai turned around and asked, “Commissioner Yao, has Ren Ziyuan been teaching children for a while now?”
“You hopeless bastard!” Yao Tianyu laughed at Jiang Zhengkai, having completely misinterpreted Jiang Zhengkai’s intentions, “I actually don’t know exactly how long. I’ll have to ask my wife once I’m back home. What, you like that girl or something?”
“Hehe… I…” Jiang Zhengkai could only manage a weak smile. Did he like her? If she really was A-Jiao, then of course he liked her, but how could he share his suspicions with Yao Tianyu? “I just… I just think her identity is somewhat suspicious…”
“I think your intentions are more suspicious!” Yao Tianyu snapped, obviously a bit unhappy at what Jiang Zhengkai had just said. He got out of the car and pointed at Jiang Zhengkai in the driver’s seat, “Do you suspect me as well? You know what? You’re not allowed to step foot inside the sub-bureau today. Go back home and get some rest. That’s an order!” The old man then left in a huff.
Jiang Zhengkai sat in his car and shook his head in disbelief. Where is he supposed to go if he couldn’t go to the office? What would he do? Jiang Zhengkai was truly at a loss. Ever since he lost his wife and daughter, his work was the only thing he had left in his life. Things finally started to change a bit when that prostitute A-Jiao entered his life, but now she had disappeared, too. Perhaps I am destined to live a lonely life! Jiang Zhengkai thought to himself.
Actually, in the last five years, there have been quite a few women who were interested in Jiang Zhengkai, and there were also quite a few who were introduced to him by his friends, but none of them caught his eye. More accurately put, he wasn’t allowing his eye to be caught in the first place. With A-Jiao, however, he simply couldn’t let her go. Perhaps it truly was destiny? Did fate really have plans for the two of them?
Jiang Zhengkai drove away from Yao Tianyu’s home, but he followed his orders and did not go to the sub-bureau. He couldn’t disobey a direct order from his boss and mentor even if he knew Yao Tianyu had no way of enforcing it. So instead of heading to work, he went to the supermarket and did some grocery shopping. He bought a loaf of bread, a few sausages, some canned goods, and a couple of bottles of water. Afterwards, he drove straight to Ju’an Estates and parked his car outside the front gate.
Since I can’t work in the office today, I guess I’ll just work here! Jiang Zhengkai pushed the driver’s seat’s seat back all the way down, laid back in the seat, and propped his feet up on the steering wheel. In his current posture, he could rest comfortably while at the same time observe A-Jiao’s window.
Perhaps he was too tired, or perhaps the afternoon sunshine was simply too comfortable, but before long, Jiang Zhengkai had fallen asleep in his car. Just then, a young woman stood behind a window and looked at the sleeping Jiang Zhengkai. She laughed out loud and murmured to herself, “What an idiot…”