Chapter 54: A-Jiao’s Statement
Jiang Zhengkai carried A-Jiao on his back all the way to an intersection near the sub-bureau. A-Jiao would have to walk the rest of the way there, however. Even though it was the weekend, he didn’t want to run the risk of his colleagues seeing him carrying a pretty girl on his back and then gossiping about it behind his back later.
A-Jiao walked with Jiang Zhengkai into one of the sub-bureau’s conference rooms. Jiang Zhengkai pointed at one of the chairs and said, “Here, sit. Do you want some water or coffee? I’ve got coffee in my office. I can go brew you a cup if you’d like.”
“No, thank you,” A-Jiao shook her head in response, “I’ll just have some water. Also, why does this place give me the creeps?” As she spoke, a smile returned to her face, “Honey, why do I feel guilty everytime I’m at a police station?”
“Haha!” Jiang Zhengkai laughed heartily at A-Jiao’s question, “That’s because you’ve done a lot of bad things in your life.” As Jiang Zhengkai walked into the conference room, he hesitated for a moment, turned around, and asked A-Jiao, “Did you want another officer present for the interview, or do you want it to be just between the two of us?”
“Oh… well, it’s official business, so… I’m fine either way!” A-Jiao knew that according to standard police procedure, a witness interview should involve two officers. Even though she was never rounded up by the vice squad, basic knowledge of police tactics and procedures was common knowledge for all members of her former profession.
“Then I’ll go get one of my colleagues?” Jiang Zhengkai asked with hesitation after hearing A-Jiao’s reply.
“Go ahead! I know what to say and what not to say,” A-Jiao pursed her lips and smiled at Jiang Zhengkai, “I won’t tell them you’re my boyfriend, so don’t worry!”
“You!” Jiang Zhengkai didn’t know how to respond to A-Jiao. He was mentally calculating how to phrase his questions so as to reduce the chances of revealing her current profession or private life. However, that was going to be a rather difficult endeavor.
“You’re here, Inspector Jiang!” politely greeted Lu Xiaoqiang as he bumped into Jiang Zhengkai while the latter was on his way to grab a steno pad from his office, “It’s the weekend. Why aren’t you spending more time with your girlfriend?”
“Hehe! It didn’t take long for you to become quite the joker, huh?” chuckled Jiang Zhengkai after being greeted by Lu Xiaoqiang. Suddenly, a thought crossed his mind. That’s right! I should get Lu Xiaoqiang to assist me in interviewing A-Jiao. Lu Xiaoqiang was A-Mei’s older brother, and A-Jiao was A-Mei’s protector while the latter was still alive. It was true that if the interview involved the three of them, many of the potentially awkward questions would become somewhat less uncomfortable.
“Xiaoqiang, get ready to come interview a witness with me in a few minutes,” instructed Jiang Zhengkai as he stepped inside his office.
“Ok!” Lu Xiaoqiang stood behind Jiang Zhengkai and looked at him with an expression of gratitude. For a brand new rookie like Lu Xiaoqiang, the opportunity to interview a witness with Jiang Zhengkai was something he had very much looked forward to.
When Jiang Zhengkai led Lu Xiaoqiang to the conference room where A-Jiao was waiting, Lu Xiaoqiang was taken aback by who he saw, “Miss… Miss Ren, why are you here?”
“What? Why shouldn’t I be here?” asked A-Jiao while not displaying any sense of discomfort. The moment she decided to accompany Jiang Zhengkai to the sub-bureau, she had already prepared herself for this moment. For A-Jiao, this was an unusually difficult decision as she had to relive moments of her life that she would rather forget. Furthermore, by agreeing to give a statement, she was risking the new life that she had so painstakingly built for herself. However, this was the only thing she could do to help Jiang Zhengkai, to bring the criminal to justice. Therefore, A-Jiao ultimately chose to give up her new life so she could help the person she loved.
“Ok, that’s enough.” Jiang Zhengkai had originally planned to cover for A-Jiao, but when he saw the frankness in her eyes, he had a feeling that doing so would actually be disrespecting her wishes. He pulled up a chair and sat next to A-Jiao before he pointed at the chair across the table and gestured for Lu Xiaoqiang to sit there. His choice of seating was a signal to A-Jiao that he would be right there to support her. This would allow A-Jiao to feel more at ease during the course of the upcoming interview as well as to remind Lu Xiaoqiang to watch his tone.
“What would you like to ask, Officer Jiang and Officer Lu?” A-Jiao obviously saw that these seemingly simple but in fact painstakingly planned arrangements were Jiang Zhengkai’s way of protecting her. She smiled gratefully at Jiang Zhengkai and then looked in all seriousness at Lu Xiaoqiang, “Ask away! I am prepared to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
“Ok. So, Miss Ren… your name, please…” Lu Xiaoqiang awkwardly asked.
“Why don’t we skip this question for now?” said Jiang Zhengkai as he waved his hand, “Actually, just write down Lin A-Jiao for the name.” It was apparent that Jiang Zhengkai’s efforts to protect A-Jiao had already outweighed his commitment to his chosen profession.
“Hehe! Since I came here of my own volition, I am of course prepared to answer any and all questions,” stated A-Jiao, “So I ask Officer Jiang to not interrupt me as I am giving my statement.” Nevertheless, hearing what Jiang Zhengkai had just said made her smile for joy.
“Ha, ok… got it!” Jiang Zhengkai let out a wry chuckle. He didn’t know how to refute what A-Jiao had just said. He could only look at this woman he loved with both gratitude and concern. In his heart, he now hoped that once this case has been solved, he could leave this city and go live somewhere else. When weighing his cherished profession against this former prostitute, his profession had already become insignificant by comparison.
“My name is Ren Ziyuan. I’m also known as A-Jiao,” A-Jiao began to explain her identity to Lu Xiaoqiang in earnest, “I am 22 years old. When I was 20, because of personal reasons, I withdrew from art school. During the following two years, I was a prostitute in one of the city’s alleys. My father’s name is Ren Pengfei. He emigrated abroad. My mother’s name was Lin Fangyun. She committed suicide two years ago. Because my parents were never officially married, and because I was registered under my father’s name, there is no way for you to find out information concerning Lin Yunfang’s children from official records. The deed to house I’m living in now is still under my mother’s name. I’m sure you have already tried running a background checking on me, but I’m also sure there are some holes in your check, correct?” At this point, A-Jiao paused and mischievously smiled at Jiang Zhengkai and Lu Xiaoqiang.
Upon hearing A-Jiao’s statement, Jiang Zhengkai forcefully pinched his forehead as he tried his best to fake a frown. Nevertheless, he couldn’t help himself from smiling. A-Jiao really was a clever woman. She knew the police were investigating her, but she also knew the information they were looking for wasn’t that easy to obtain.
“Then my sister’s card…” When Lu Xiaoqiang saw A-Jiao straightforwardly explaining her personal history, he very unprofessionally started asking about his late sister’s bank card.
“Oh, that card! It was always in my possession,” A-Jiao looked at Lu Xiaoqiang for a second and smiled, “Xiaomei lived a very frugal life. I’ve never seen a more frugal sister.” As she spoke those words, A-Jiao lowered her head slightly as she was still somewhat sensitive towards her former profession. “She sent most of the money she made back home,” A-Jiao added, “Xiaomei had a very weak personality. She told me she didn’t feel safe having the bank card in her possession. She was afraid another sister would take it from her, so she decided to give it to me for safekeeping.” As she spoke, A-Jiao gently placed her hand below her nose so as to prevent her tears from falling onto her cheeks. She felt a hint of sadness as she continued, “After she died, I continued to send monthly wires back to her family.”
“Thank you… thank you… Miss Ren!” said Lu Xiaoqiang as tears streamed down his face.
“Be a man! Stop crying!” admonished A-Jiao, but she herself turned her face sideways to hide her tears.
“Alright, why don’t we move on?” interrupted Jiang Zhengkai as he saw both A-Jiao and Lu Xiaoqiang were becoming quite emotional, “Let’s talk about the facts relating to the case.” In fact, having Lu Xiaoqiang feel like he owed A-Jiao a debt of gratitude was exactly what he had hoped for. Since he had already achieved his objective, it was now time to ask some substantive questions.
“Yes. Sorry, Inspector Jiang, Miss Ren,” apologized Lu Xiaoqiang as he wiped away his tears and then shifted his focus to Jiang Zhengkai, “Inspector Jiang, I suggest we do away with the routine questions. I’ll let you take over with asking the substantive questions.”
“Ok, that works,” Jiang Zhengkai nodded his head in agreement with Lu Xiaoqiang’s suggestion. There were so many things he wanted to find out from A-Jiao, but he didn’t know just where exactly to begin. He thought for a split second and then raised his head to look at A-Jiao, “Ziyuan, do you remember the questions I asked you while the two of us were at Hot Pot City?”