Chapter 9: A Man Who Cares for Her
“The patient is emotionally unstable,” the attending physician told Jiang Zhengkai as they stood in her office. “Officer Jiang, right now, all of the other patients in the ward object to being placed in the same ward as her. Could you, perhaps… transfer her to the prison infirmary?”
”But Dr. Wang, she’s not a criminal!” Jiang Zhengkai stared incredulously at her. He used to have a lot of respect for Dr. Wang, but the fact that she could suggest such an inhumane solution for such a pitiful woman made him lose some of that respect.
“That may be true, but I’m at my wit’s end here,” said Dr. Wang. “Right now, none of the other patients want to stay in the same ward as her…” Her voice trailed off towards the end, but she quickly regained her composure. She looked at Jiang Zhengkai and said, “In fact, transferring her to the prison infirmary might actually be better for her recovery.”
As Jiang Zhengkai listened to what Dr. Wang said, his eyes glazed over as he nodded his head. What Dr. Wang says may be true. If we just leave A-Jiao here, she will most definitely continue to be ostracized by the other patients and their family members. And if we transfer her to the prison infirmary, it might speed up her recovery. Even so, she doesn’t deserve to be in a place that houses criminals. What would that type of environment do to her psychological well-being?
“Dr. Wang… I’ve been thinking…” Jiang Zhengkai said somewhat haltingly. “Could you… could you transfer her to a private hospital room?”
“A private room?” Dr. Wang was very much taken aback at Jiang Zhengkai’s request. “Officer Jiang, I know you’re a good person, but who’s going to pay for the private room? Will the sub-bureau be able to reimburse this expense?”
Jiang Zhengkai didn’t say anything at first, just shook his head in response. He then replied in a dispirited tone, “This patient is vital to my case! She’s a very important witness, even though she’s just a… just a prostitute.” There it was; he couldn’t help but use that word. To be honest, he wasn’t even sure yet whether or not A-Jiao really was an important witness. But for whatever reason, his heart wouldn’t let him abandon this woman of the streets.
By the end of the day, Jiang Zhengkai’s request was granted. Dr. Wang coaxed and pestered the hospital director until he finally agreed to transfer A-Jiao to a private hospital room. At last, A-Jiao was able to recover in peace, not having to worry about anyone bothering her anymore.
During the days that A-Jiao spent recovering in the hospital, business in the alley completely dried up, mainly due to to media reports of the grisly deaths that had occurred there. The absence of any activity naturally meant no new homicide incidents arose there either.
Although they still hadn’t cracked the case on any of the current homicides, the lack of any new incidents meant that Jiang Zhengkai could breathe a little bit easier. Now that the storm had passed, the municipal police bureau headquarters was no longer hounding him on a daily basis. Furthermore, setting a deadline for cracking the case had just been an instance of Police Commissioner Yao Tianyu venting his anger and frustration. It wasn’t like the commissioner hadn’t seen the case files himself. He knew this was indeed a very bizarre case, so what had been the use of setting a deadline anyway? Even if the commissioner were to hound Jiang Zhengkai to death, he still wouldn’t be able to come up with any credible leads.
However, Jiang Zhengkai was now certain of at least one thing. The absence of new homicides in the alley confirmed that the deaths were somehow tied to the business of prostitution. But what exactly was the link between the two? Jiang Zhengkai did not yet have an answer to that question.
After she was transferred to a private room, A-Jiao’s health gradually improved. Even though the doctors and nurses still treated her profession with contempt, they no longer harbored any ill will towards A-Jiao herself. After all, A-Jiao was neither contentious nor troublesome, so their attitudes towards her took a turn for the better.
Once she was able to walk around again, A-Jiao even began to clean up her room. As a result, the nurses had to do less work, so as time went by, they no longer treated her as coldly. When they saw each other now, they would smile at one another, perhaps even crack a joke or two.
A-Jiao was a beautiful young woman to begin with, especially when she smiled. The pair of dimples that appeared on her cheeks made her look uniquely cute and innocent, and so people in the hospital gradually accepted her existence among them. However, her profession had become a taboo topic for everyone. No one dared mention her line of work in her presence. It was as if the mere mention of what she did for a living was a kind of personal insult to her.
Nevertheless, there was one exception to this happy state of affairs, and that was A-Jiao’s relationship with Jiang Zhengkai. No matter how hard Jiang Zhengkai tried, she would never be able to accept him, because it was his testimony that allowed her attacker to escape justice. Despite that, Jiang Zhengkai treated A-Jiao with great kindness and patience. No matter what A-Jiao did, he would come by every day after work and drop off some fruit or magazines.
“I see you’re up, A-Jiao,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he entered her room holding a bunch of bananas. “Feeling better today?”
“Thanks for your concern!” A-Jiao glanced contemptuously at Jiang Zhengkai. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be turning tricks again in no time! If you ever get transferred to vice, don’t forget to arrest me!”
“Heh, I’m afraid I’ll only be dealing with the dead for the rest of my career,” Jiang Zhengkai chuckled in response; her words didn’t faze him. “Hey, did you fetch this pot of hot water yourself?” Jiang Zhengkai asked her as he lifted up the hot water thermos to see if it was full.
“That’s right, but you shouldn’t drink the water, because I’ve poisoned it!” A-Jiao announced as she propped her hands on the side of the mattress and got back into bed. She knew Jiang Zhengkai had a habit of drinking her water every time he came to visit.
“Really?” Jiang Zhengkai paid no heed to A-Jiao’s warning and poured himself a cup of water as usual. “You didn’t drop a bunch of little blue pills in here, did you?”
“And what if I did?” A-Jiao straightened her neck. “Ain’t nobody gonna help you with your little ‘problem’ once you’re done drinking.”
“Well, I’ve got you for that, don’t I?” In this hospital, Jiang Zhengkai was the only one who would discuss A-Jiao’s profession.
“Me?” A-Jiao’s face revealed the tiniest of smiles, but it soon gave way to another scowl. She hissed, “Officer Jiang, I’m out there selling my services, not giving them away! Plus, if the two of us got it on, would I be charged with raping a police officer or just seducing one?”
“Here, have a banana,” Jiang Zhengkai said as he tried to change the subject. He caught the hidden meaning in A-Jiao’s words, and knew that the events of that night had caused her great pain. He replayed in his mind what he had seen back then, and realized that it would forever haunt him as well.
“No!” A-Jiao refused as she turned her back towards Jiang Zhengkai. “I’m not a monkey!” She didn’t know why she hated this man who cared for her so much. Perhaps all women were like this? The more you care about her, the more she dislikes you. In any case, A-Jiao hated him a lot… a whole hell of a lot.
Since A-Jiao had turned her back on him, Jiang Zhengkai fell silent as well. He put the recently-peeled banana back on the table and quietly sat down in the chair next to it. He knew he wasn’t A-Jiao’s man, so there was no need for him to care too much about her feelings. His concern for A-Jiao was purely due to a sense of guilt for what happened that night, as well as his generally kind-hearted nature.
“What’s… what’s the date today?” A-Jiao suddenly whispered, still with her back to him. It was perhaps the first time A-Jiao had used a normal tone of voice towards Jiang Zhengkai since she’d been moved to this room.
“The eighth,” Jiang Zhengkai responded curtly after checking the date on his cell phone.
“Then… could you do me a favor?” A-Jiao asked him as she gently turned towards him and looked at him imploringly. “I… I want to go home.”
“You can’t go home in your present state!” Jiang Zhengkai answered without a shadow of a doubt.
“I’m begging you, please!” A-Jiao pleaded with tears in her eyes. “Just let me go back for a little while. As soon as I’m done, I’ll come right back, I promise!”
“No!” Jiang Zhengkai replied.
“Argh!” A-Jiao groaned in dissatisfaction as she once again turned her back on him. Tears were already streaming down her face.
“Although… if you were under my supervision, I could let you leave the hospital for an hour,” Jiang Zhengkai told her as he thought it over again. Looking at her right now, he couldn’t help but feel bad for the girl.
“Really?” A-Jiao immediately turned towards Jiang Zhengkai again, looking like this news had suddenly re-energized her body.
“Yes, really!” he replied. “And hey, you can stop crying now, princess,” he teased her upon seeing the tears on her face.
“Don’t call me princess!” A-Jiao said with a sudden sharpness. Her voice almost immediately softened as she explained, “That man called me princess, too…” It was apparent the events of that night still haunted her, even though she was just a prostitute.