Chapter 44: The Rookie Cop
Jiang Zhengkai saw that A-Jiao didn’t want to talk about the Bald Wolf, so he quickly changed the subject. Soon, her frayed nerves had calmed, and the two of them talked and laughed again as they walked for a while. Suddenly, A-Jiao stopped dead in her tracks.
“Hehe, Brother Jiang, where are you taking me?” she wittily asked Jiang Zhengkai with her hands behind her back, looking around at their unfamiliar surroundings.
“Taking you…?” Jiang Zhengkai stammered, looking left and right. “I was following you!” He also had a baffled expression on his face. Clearly, the two of them were so engrossed in their conversation that they’d inadvertently taken a wrong turn.
“Well, I don’t care! You still need to bring me home,” said A-Jiao as she inched her body closer to Jiang Zhengkai. The elegant smell of the fragrance on her body immediately filled his nostrils. Even though Jiang Zhengkai was a man with a great sense of self-control, he was still a man. When a woman who looked nearly identical to the woman he longed for actively threw herself at him, he was hard-pressed to reject such temptation. Add to that the fact that it was the dead of night, and that this woman gave off a most scintillating scent.
Jiang Zhengkai unconsciously wrapped his arms around A-Jiao as he locked her in his embrace. She made no move to resist him, since this was precisely what she was hoping for. A-Jiao buried her face in Jiang Zhengkai’s chest and murmured, “Brother Jiang, can you love me and not A-Jiao, please?” As she spoke, a pair of glistening teardrops dropped to her cheeks. That was her heartfelt wish, for Jiang Zhengkai to fall in love with the Ren Ziyuan of the present and forget about the A-Jiao of the past. She didn’t want the man she loved to forever bear the burden of having a prostitute for a lover, for to love someone is to shield him from pain and suffering.
Jiang Zhengkai didn’t respond to A-Jiao’s pleas. He couldn’t respond to them. He couldn’t not love A-Jiao, just like he couldn’t love Ren Ziyuan. He wasn’t a fickle man. Whether it was towards the deceased Su Jing or the missing A-Jiao, his love would always be sincere, earnest, and persistent.
A-Jiao wasn’t able to elicit a response from Jiang Zhengkai, but so what? The man embracing her would sooner or later be hers. She just didn’t want him to belong to her past self. A-Jiao put her ear to his chest. She rather liked hearing this man’s strong and powerful heartbeat. For some reason, it gave her a sense of security. The two of them stood in mutual embrace for several minutes more. Eventually, it was Jiang Zhengkai who finally broke the silence. “Miss Ren, I… you know I love A-Jiao.”
“Then… promise me… before A-Jiao returns, could you think of me as her?” Her words were already laced with sobs. She didn’t know why she wanted to cry, just that she wanted to. Should she be happy instead?
“But…” Jiang Zhengkai still wanted to say something, but when he looked into A-Jiao’s tearful eyes, he swallowed whatever words he had originally planned on saying.
A-Jiao bit her lips and held in her sobs as she said with her nose twitching, “Brother Jiang, I love you! Just think of me as A-Jiao… I beg of you… as soon as she returns, I’ll leave.” The moment she finished, she collapsed in his embrace and cried uncontrollably.
“I… ai! Okay… fine.” Jiang Zhengkai caressed A-Jiao several times as he continued to hold her in his embrace. He felt he had developed a new sense of fondness for this woman wrapped in his arms, but that wasn’t enough to change his heart. But it’s better to have something to believe in than nothing at all, right? So in the end, he decided to accept A-Jiao’s request.
The two of them stood there, silently holding each other. The man embraced the woman in his arms, while the woman placed her head on the man’s chest. The two didn’t care about the pedestrians who walked past them on the street or the drivers who peered through their car windows. Right now, the whole world belonged to just those two. The only question was, were their hearts filled more with happiness or sorrow?
The next morning, Jiang Zhengkai arrived on-time at the office. By the time he’d dropped A-Jiao off at her home, it was already late into the night, but that didn’t bother him at all. For a dedicated police officer such as Jiang Zhengkai, staying up late was all in a day’s work, so he didn’t really feel any different than any other day.
“Inspector Jiang, Commander Wu assigned you a new assistant,” Liu Na said as she led a young man to the entrance of Jiang Zhengkai’s office. “A fresh graduate from the police academy, Lu Xiaoqiang.”
“Xiaoqiang, is it?” said Jiang Zhengkai. He felt as if something was amiss, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He was apparently not very well-versed in Stephen Chow’s comedy movies. (Translator’s Note: “Xiaoqiang” is a Chinese nickname for cockroach due to a “pet” cockroach kept by actor Stephen Chow’s character Tang Bohu in the popular comedy film Flirting Scholar.)
“Good morning, Inspector Jiang!” shouted Lu Xiaoqiang as he saluted Jiang Zhengkai.
“Alright, alright, just come in already,” Jiang Zhengkai called for Lu Xiaoqiang to enter as he motioned for Liu Na to return to her desk. “Liu Xiaoqiang…” Jiang Zhengkai said to himself as he rifled through the young man’s personnel file. He casually asked, “Oh, I see you’re Sichuanese. Are there a lot of people with the last name ‘Lu’ where you’re from?” He raised his head and carefully studied Lu Xiaoqiang’s face.
“Yes, sir,” Lu Xiaoqiang crisply answered. “The Lu Clan is a major clan in my hometown.”
“I see!” Jiang Zhengkai nodded in response. “From your file, I can see that you obtained high marks at the academy. Why didn’t you choose an assignment in Beijing? Why did you choose to be assigned here?”
Before Lu Xiaoqiang could finish, Jiang Zhengkai impatiently waved his hand and threw his personnel file down onto his desk, “Enough with the sirs already! Stand at ease! This isn’t the academy, so stop wasting your energy on maintaining perfect military bearing.”
“Hehe, yes, Inspector Jiang,” Lu Xiaoqiang eagerly nodded.
“Please, take a seat for crying out loud. Stop standing there like a stiff,” admonished Jiang Zhengkai as he took out a cigarette. He tossed it over to Lu Xiaoqiang. “Do you smoke? Now, dispense with the pleasantries and tell me something real about yourself.”
“Yes, Inspector.” Lu Xiaoqiang scratched his head and sat down across from Jiang Zhengkai. “I have a younger sister who works in this city. I came here mainly so I can take care of her. When I was in school, all of my family’s expenses, including my tuition, were paid for by my sister. I know she’s sacrificed a lot for my family, for me.” As he spoke, Lu Xiaoqiang couldn’t help but get teary-eyed.
“Really?” Jiang Zhengkai glanced at Lu Xiaoqiang. “You have a good sister!” He sighed, then asked, “What does she do?”
“I heard she works at the front desk of a hotel here…” Lu Xiaoqiang answered with some hesitation.
“You heard?” Jiang Zhengkai was noticeably displeased by Lu Xiaoqiang’s answer. “What kind of a big brother are you? How do you not even know where your little sister works? When did you get here?”
“Last night,” Lu Xiaoqiang replied.
“I’m going to give you three days leave. Go find your sister and spend some time with her.” Jiang Zhengkai looked at Lu Xiaoqiang and said with no trace of hesitation, “Three days later, I want you here in my office at 0830 in the morning sharp, and I want you to be prepared to give your 100%, understood?”
“Yes, sir!” Lu Xiaoqiang boomed; he stood at attention out of habit.
“What did I just tell you? For the last time, this isn’t the academy!” Jiang Zhengkai couldn’t help but chuckle as he looked at Lu Xiaoqiang. Every veteran cop started out as a rookie. Thinking back, he probably knew less than this kid when he first graduated from the academy. “Hey, how are you going to find your sister in this huge city of ours if you don’t have your sister’s address?”
“Oh, I have a point of contact,” said Lu Xiaoqiang as he pulled out an envelope from his pocket and respectfully handed it over.
Jiang Zhengkai took the envelope and glanced at the address. He was stunned by what he saw. The From line on the envelope clearly said, “Lu Xiaomei C/O Zhu Yuping.” Jiang Zhengkai rubbed his nose with his finger and expressionlessly returned the envelope back to Lu Xiaoqiang. “Xiaoqiang, I just remembered something! I’ll need to delay your leave for a bit. There’s a meeting at Bureau HQ today, but my schedule is already jam-packed. Could you go in my stead?”
“Yes, sir! I will complete the mission as instructed!” Lu Xiaoqiang seriously replied.
“There you go again!” Jiang Zhengkai smiled as he pointed at Lu Xiaoqiang, except this time his smile was very much forced. “Go now! Make sure to give a detailed report of the meeting when you return in the afternoon,” he ordered before waving Lu Xiaoqiang out.
“Yes, sir!” Lu Xiaoqiang replied with the same zealousness as before. It appeared that he still wasn’t able to fully adjust to post-academy life. Afterwards, he scurried away towards municipal bureau headquarters.