Chapter 4: New Developments
Just like half a month ago, Jiang Zhengkai once again paid a visit to this alley. The difference this time, though, was that the murder occurred in a room above the one where the murder occurred last time. The victims were also different: a prostitute named A-Hua and a local boy named Yin Tao.
But the scene of the crime looked exactly like last time: no signs of a struggle and no blood splatters. On the bed were the skin-covered skeletons of a man and a woman in the middle of lovemaking. There was no evidence to indicate that anyone had entered the room between the time the victims went in and the time the police arrived on-scene. Everything seemed so tranquil, but behind the tranquility was a brand new murder case.
All relevant suspects were once again hauled back to the station. As before, the initial round of interrogation revealed no credible leads. The only similarities between the two sets of people present were that in both cases, the victims were involved in the prostitution business, the victims died naked on a bed, and that woman A-Jiao had been nearby.
Jiang Zhengkai sat in the interrogation room. He felt a throbbing pain in his head. These two cases had no leads whatsoever. Two unrelated sets of victims died in two different rooms in the same building. What did this mean? He thought about it all night, but still could not figure out an answer.
Right before dawn, he patted Wei Xin awake, who had earlier fallen asleep beside him. “Wei, go and bring A-Jiao here. I want to question her again.” Wei Xin rubbed her sleepy eyes and then left the interrogation room.
About ten minutes later, Wei Xin and another female police officer brought A-Jiao back to the interrogation room. Because it was early morning, the only officers at the station were those on the night shift, which did not include many female officers. “Hello, A-Jiao,” said Jiang Zhengkai. “I want you to tell me again what happened last night.”
“Last night…” A-Jiao’s lips appeared a bit pale, and her hair wasn’t as neatly done as the last time he’d seen her. After the rough treatment Zhang Weidong and Li Chunhai had given her, she was clearly exhausted. “Last night, those four guys came over for a good time. So A-Hua went to that room, and A-Hui went to the opposite room. I went to Xiaomei’s room downstairs.”
“Downstairs?” Jiang Zhengkai stared at her, shocked. “Are you saying you were in the room where the last murder occurred?” He could hardly believe his ears.
“Yes.” A-Jiao’s tone of voice was noticeably more measured than last time. She said slowly, “There was nowhere else to go. I had to take care of my clients. If I didn’t go to that room, then where else could I go?”
“Then… then did you find anything unusual about that room?” Jiang Zhengkai looked at her with a touch of strange curiosity. These women will do just about anything for money! He continued, “Had you been inside that room anytime recently?”
“No!” A-Jiao said as she shook her head. She was obviously very tired. If A-Hua hadn’t died last night, then it may well have been her who was lying dead on a bed today. The only difference is that A-Hua had turned straight into a skeleton, whereas A-Jiao would’ve died from exhaustion after too much rough sex from those two men.
“Are you saying there wasn’t anything unusual in that room, or that you hadn’t been inside that room recently?” Jiang Zhengkai wanted to confirm.
“Both!” A-Jiao said as she shook her head again. Because of all the talking, her lips looked even paler than before.
“Give her some water,” Jiang Zhengkai said to Wei Xin. As an old veteran of the police force, he didn’t have too much sympathy for women like A-Jiao.
“Thank you, sir,” A-Jiao said softly. Apparently, she was capable of saying nice things after all.
“Did you not find anything even slightly unusual in that room?” Jiang Zhengkai asked after he saw A-Jiao take a sip of water.
“Well… Oh right, that room was very cold!” A-Jiao thought a bit further and softly said, “I thought it was just an illusion on my part. The weather isn’t that cold anymore, but that room really did feel very cold.”
“Really? So you’re saying the room felt very cold?” Jiang Zhengkai thought this was kind of strange, so he asked one more question. “Other than that, you didn’t notice anything else unusual?”
“That’s right,” A-Jiao nodded in response. “I thought it was an illusion because two people had just died there, but you can double-check with those two guys–”
“That’ll be all.” Jiang Zhengkai said with a nod. “You can go now.” He didn’t care if A-Jiao was doing her business with one man, two men, or a whole group of men. Those things weren’t his department.
After A-Jiao left, Jiang Zhengkai looked at Wei Xin and asked, “Those two, Zheng Weidong and Li Chunhai: was there anything in their testimonies that mentioned the room was especially cold?”
“Zheng Weidong didn’t say,” Wei Xin said while shaking her head. “But Li Chunhai did seem to have said something similar. He said that the room felt especially cold to him. However, he said that may have been due to him being nervous because he was doing something lewd.”
“In that case, bring Zhang Weidong back here so we can question him again!” Jiang Zhengkai told Wei Xin. He furrowed his brow and rapped his head with his knuckles in frustration. Right now, all we know is that this room was very cold. It seems like a lead, but what kind of a lead is it? What can it explain? Jiang Zhengkai didn’t have an answer to that question.
“Hello, Officer Jiang!” Zhang Weidong walked in. By now, he had completely sobered up.
“Tell me again what happened last night,” Jiang Zhengkai said.
“Sure thing!” Zhang Weidong replied. “Last night, the four of us were out for a get-together. On our way home, we–”
“No, tell me what happened later,” interrupted Jiang Zhengkai. “Last night, you, that woman A-Jiao, and Li Chunhai; which room did you all go into?”
“Which room?” Zhang Weidong thought for a second. “I’m not exactly sure. I was pretty wasted then, but judging from where the screams came from, I’m pretty sure we were directly beneath where Yin Tao was.”
“From what you can recall, was there anything unusual about that room you were in?” Jiang Zhengkai continued.
“Unusual?” Zhang Weidong wondered aloud. “I don’t recall anything particularly unusual other than that the room was a bit cool. I do remember feeling a chill when I first entered the room, so that’s why I didn’t completely undress later on…”
“So you’re saying the room was cold?” Jiang Zhengkai reiterated.
“Yeah!” Zhang Weidong replied, “Very, very cold.”
“Alright, you can go now.” Jiang Zhengkai then said to one of Zhang Weidong’s police escorts, “Hold up. Bring in Li Chunhai next.”
Ten minutes later, Li Chunhai was brought into the interrogation room. Jiang Zhengkai looked at him and asked, “Our records indicate that you said the room you were in felt especially cold, correct?”
“That’s right!” Li Chunhai said confidently, “That room was really cold.”
“Alright. Do you remember the position of the room inside the building?” asked Jiang Zhengkai.
“No,” Li Chunhai said as he shook his head. “However, that room wasn’t far from the staircase. Anyway, judging by where the screams came from, I’m pretty certain we were below Yin Tao. The only problem is that the staircase was long and winding, so it’s hard to remember where exactly we were in the building. Oh, and one more thing: I don’t think that woman wanted to take us into that room at first.”
“Oh?” Jiang Zhengkai asked as he made eye contact with Li Chunhai. “How do you know?”
“Pretty simple,” Li Chunhai chuckled. “As soon as she stepped into the building, she kept on staring at that room, as if she were afraid of it or something. Also, the door to that room had a broken lock, so there was a temporary padlock installed. I noticed it when we first went upstairs, so when we came back down, I figured that was the room we were using.”
“Other than the room being cold, did you feel anything else? Or did you find anything else to be out of the ordinary?” asked Jiang Zhengkai. After hearing Li Chunhai’s statement, Jiang Zhengkai furrowed his brow and thought quietly to himself. He wasn’t sure if he should commend Li Chunhai on his cautiousness or if he should just consider him an architectural nut.
“It was just cold, really cold. Other than that, there was nothing else unusual,” replied Li Chunhai.
“Which room on the third floor did she originally want to take you guys?” After thinking to himself for a second, Jiang Zhengkai suddenly asked, “Can you identify that room?”
“Yes!” Li Chunhai replied. “There was a ‘happiness’ sticker pasted onto the door, and there was a lantern hanging next to it.”
After Li Chunhai was escorted out, Jiang Zhengkai was able to determine two facts. First, several people were in the old crime scene room the night the latest murder occurred. Second, the old crime scene room was extremely cold. With regard to these two facts, that woman called A-Jiao wasn’t lying. However, a new question entered his mind. When this latest murder occurred, there were people present in the room where the last murder occurred. Why weren’t the people in the old room turned into skeletons? Why did nothing happen to them at all? Could it be that each murder occurs on the floor above the previous one?