Chapter 90: Luck and Misfortune
By the time A-Jiao returned to her office, both Cui Jing and Zhang Yali were gone. Perhaps they went home? She peered outside the window again and saw that Jiang Zhengkai’s car was still parked across from the preschool’s main entrance. She quickly gathered her belongings before skipping with joy all the way out of the preschool.
“Hee! You’ve been here a while, haven’t you?” asked A-Jiao, though she was clearly out of breath as she climbed into Jiang Zhengkai’s waiting car. “Sorry about that! Today was crazy. Something unexpected popped up in the afternoon. That’s why I was so busy.”
“Hehe! Honey, you’ve got to take care of yourself,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he placed the files back into the accordion folder and threw it onto the backseat. “You’re the only woman I’ve got.”
“What is that supposed to mean? How many more women do you want?” demanded A-Jiao as she waved her fist again in front of his face.
“One! Just one!” laughed Jiang Zhengkai as he turned on the car engine. These days, he really enjoyed teasing A-Jiao. He liked the way she looked when she was angry. “Oh right! How was your day? Did something good happen at work?” Jiang Zhengkai could tell A-Jiao was in quite a good mood, so he immediately worked to change the subject.
“Oh! I helped Cui Jing out with an audited class in the afternoon. Chairwoman Zhou of the School Board…” A-Jiao recounted for him everything Principal Li had said to her, without the slightest reservation. In the meantime, Jiang Zhengkai put the car into drive and drove away from the preschool.
Shortly after A-Jiao left, the silhouette of a young woman appeared from one of the preschool’s restrooms. It was Cui Jing. She hadn’t gone home. Even though she was close to an emotional breakdown, she nevertheless didn’t want to wreck A-Jiao’s good mood. She knew A-Jiao had a date tonight, so there was no need to ruin her evening festivities with her own worries.
Even though Cui Jing was sometimes foolish and other times lazy, she nevertheless had a mean streak in her. That didn’t mean she had a mean heart, simply that she was a woman who wanted to be loved. Furthermore, she was also very naive, which meant she often lost herself in trying to please others. Therefore, it came as no surprise that she wouldn’t want to bother A-Jiao simply due to her own misery.
Cui Jing sat back down at her office desk. She took out her cell phone and looked helplessly at it. Still no call from Li Hongbin. In the stillness of this empty office, she finally found the courage to call his number. But no one answered. If Cui Jing hadn’t lost her mind just then, then perhaps she would still maintain certain illusions about her relationship with Li Hongbin. But when women lose their minds, they lose their minds completely and totally. Cui Jing heard the ring tone end as the voicemail picked ip, but she didn’t give up and redialed his phone.
After calling Li Hongbin’s phone for the millionth time, God bless, the call finally went through. However, the voice on the other end was not at all the one she’d longed to hear. Instead, she heard the soft moans of a woman and Li Hongbin’s indistinct voice. Clearly, her dearest Li Hongbin had already found a new target. He was lying on top of some unknown woman, whispering in her ear the same sweet-nothings that he used to whisper to her. Perhaps he would eventually sell this woman for money as well?
Cui Jing’s cell phone slowly slipped out of her hand and fell onto the floor. She wanted to cry, but she felt as if she had no more tears left. Perhaps it was for the best. At least she now knew she was indeed very stupid and very naive and had truly been taken advantage of. Still, the human heart doesn’t always follow the logic of the human brain, as the pain in Cui Jing’s heart grew more intense with these revelations.
Cui Jing got up out of her chair and wobbled her way out of the office. She knew everyone who worked at the preschool had already left. Perhaps a little while later, parents would arrive with their children who took cram school classes being offered here. She couldn’t let anyone see her in her present decrepit state, see how that formerly regal princess had turned into such an ugly duckling. She resolved to leave the preschool. She staggered and wobbled her way into the hallway and out of the front door.
Darkness had already descended as a cool breeze brought a bit of much-needed respite from the summer’s blistering heat. For an ordinary person, this breeze felt rather refreshing, but for Cui Jing, it felt like nothing less than a blast of bone-chilling arctic wind. Perhaps it was the breeze that made her leg suddenly cramp up, which caused her to fall right in the middle of one of this city’s many busy streets.
A faraway vehicle barreled towards Cui Jing as the distance between them narrowed by the second. She had collapsed right next to an intersection, while the vehicle was a heavy-duty truck laden down with rocks and sand. Perhaps Cui Jing’s life would end tonight, courtesy of this truck. Anyone who has driven in China knows that heavy duty-trucks rules the roads there. They were veritable tanks on an asphalt battlefield. Even a midsize sedan would be sent flying if it made contact with one of these trucks, much less a figure as small as Cui Jing. Was it possible that all the truck drivers in China started out as army tank drivers?
Thank Heaven! When God created the tank driver, He also thought to create the special forces soldier. A robust silhouette burst onto the scene and whisked Cui Jing away just as the truck’s tires were about to make contact with her body. Both individuals dove across to safety on the other side of the road.
“Do you have a death wish?” a deep voice bellowed in Cui Jing’s ear. She opened her eyes wide and stared at the man in a confused daze. She could make out his outline, but she couldn’t clearly see his face. Still, she knew it wasn’t Li Hongbin. As for who exactly this mysterious man was, did it really matter? Cui Jing slowly closed her eyes and fainted.
On the road, the truck that had almost ended Cui Jing’s life didn’t stop. It kept on going and soon disappeared from sight. If anyone ever had the opportunity to ask the truck driver about what had happened here today, there was a good chance he wouldn’t even remember that his truck tires were 0.1 seconds away from ending a young life.
“Goddamnit! She fainted.” The young man bent down and placed his hand in front of Cui Jing’s nose, before placing two fingers on her neck to check her pulse. “Ugh, just my luck!” he muttered beneath his breath. He threw Cui Jing’s body over his shoulder like he would a burlap sack, and disappeared into the night.
* * *
After dinner, Jiang Zhengkai took A-Jiao back to the preschool, since she had two cram school classes that she had to teach tonight. Meanwhile, Jiang Zhengkai needed to go over the documents Zheng Yueshan had given him, so he sat quietly in the art studio as he perused the documents. Every night, both A-Jiao and Jiang Zhengkai would feel especially at ease. Perhaps this was the kind of happiness that the two of them needed: quiet, peaceful, undisturbed, and intimate.
According to Zheng Yueshan’s documents, the detectives investigating the case back then suspected that A-Xiu took in huge quantities of drugs every month. However, to their surprise, A-Xiu would only ever receive small shipments of drugs from Sui Dequan. Even though A-Xiu frequently took on shipments, sometimes as often as once per day, the quantity she acquired was more suited for personal use than for sales and distribution. What did this mean? Was A-Xiu buying drugs for her own personal use? But after further investigation, the detectives found that there was a vast drug ring operated by the women in the alley, and at the center of that ring was A-Xiu.
Jiang Zhengkai flipped through the case summary, where he indeed found information about A-Di: she was labeled as A-Xiu’s subtenant. Furthermore, the case summary stated that, according to investigation conducted at the time, A-Di was determined to be uninvolved in A-Xiu’s drug ring. As for when exactly A-Di left this city, the record was silent.
After Jiang Zhengkai had finished reading all of the documents, something suddenly dawned on him. There was information in those documents pertaining to A-Di, A-Xue, A-Lian, and practically all other prostitutes in the alley, yet there was no mention at all of A-Jiao. Logically speaking, A-Jiao had had a very close relationship with A-Xiu and had been there to take possession of all of A-Xiu’s belongings when she disappeared, so there should have been some mention of A-Jiao in the official case summary. And yet, there wasn’t.
As Jiang Zhengkai thought about this discovery, he raised his head to see A-Jiao teaching a room full of children. This was a riddle of a case, and that was a riddle of a woman…