Chapter 96: Unexpected Breakthroughs
After Jiang Zhengkai left, A-Jiao did as she was told and went inside the preschool building. She didn’t really like going out anyway. If she was on her own, even if she had no classes in the afternoon, she still prefered to enjoy the peace and quiet of her art studio.
“Miss Ren, did you see Cui Jing this morning?” Principal Li asked almost as soon as A-Jiao unfurled an empty piece of canvas. “I’m going to kill that girl! She’s even turned off her cell phone this time!”
“No, I haven’t,” said A-Jiao as she raised her head and looked at Principal Li. “She didn’t come to work today? I had classes this morning, so I didn’t notice that she wasn’t here.” To be honest, Cui Jing was hardly ever punctual, even before she’d been assaulted, so her absence was barely noticed by her officemates.
“Really?” Principal Li was well aware that Cui Jing was frequently tardy. Prior to A-Jiao’s arrival, Cui Jing had been the preschool’s sole rainmaker, so Principal Li had had no choice but to put up with her faults. She was able to overlook a lot of things from Cui Jing, as long as they didn’t affect her ability to teach her classes and make money for the school.
“Uh-huh, that’s right,” A-Jiao confidently nodded. But then, she suddenly felt a bit uneasy about Cui Jing’s absence. “Principal Li, do you have her home phone number? You don’t think something bad has happened to her, do you?” A-Jiao and Cui Jing were good friends, after all, so as long as A-Jiao’s head wasn’t glued to Jiang Zhengkai’s chest, she had the wherewithal to care about her friend and colleague.
“Ai! I have no idea either,” answered Principal Li as she helplessly shook her head. “Miss Ren, I’ve got a meeting with the school board in the afternoon, so could you… perhaps take over Cui Jing’s afternoon classes?”
“Oh, sure, that’s no problem!” A-Jiao was a smart woman, of course. She knew what Principal Li was getting at before the words had even left her mouth. Old Lady Li hadn’t been asking about Cui Jing’s whereabouts out of concern for her, but rather because she was worried that no one was going to teach Cui Jing’s afternoon classes.
“Thank you so much!” Seeing how quickly A-Jiao agreed, Principal Li was more than grateful. “If only all young people were like you, Miss Ren! Alright, I have to go to the school board meeting now. Thanks again for taking over Cui Jing’s afternoon classes.”
“Don’t mention it, Principal Li! Good luck at the meeting,” A-Jiao said with a smile as she saw Principal Li out. As soon as she left, A-Jiao pouted her lips, stood in her art studio, and muttered to herself, “Damn you, Cui Jing! I’m stuck teaching your classes while you’re out playing hooky again!”
* * *
When Jiang Zhengkai and Zhang Nan returned to the police station in the afternoon, they naturally brought along the two men they’d apprehended in A-Shun’s home. As for Han Lei and Xu Yang, the two inspectors had returned to A-Shun’s home as soon as they had dropped off the suspects at the police station. For now, they would remain there to ensure the safety of A-Tao and her child.
Getting the two suspects to reveal their identities and what they were up to that morning wasn’t actually all that difficult. The police had many “Jedi mind tricks” up their sleeves that they could use to get suspects to cooperate. These two men in particular were neither idealistic rebels nor hardened criminal masterminds, so it didn’t take long before they both cracked and told the police everything they knew.
One of them was called A-Guang, while the other was A-Hua. They had both once been Sui Dequan’s underlings, but they now followed one of Sui Dequan’s distant relatives: a former captain in the Sui Dequan crime family, Sui Zhongyi. They had indeed been sent to A-Tie’s home earlier in the morning on Sui Zhongyi’s orders. There’d been two other men with them, but those two had been assigned by Sui Zhongyi to another job, so only these two sorry gangsters wound up at A-Shun’s home in the afternoon.
As for why Sui Zhongyi had sent them to “visit” A-Tie in the first place, they had an explanation ready for that too. Sui Zhongyi didn’t actually want to harm A-Tie. He only wanted to find out what had happened to three of his men, who had gone missing after hiring A-Tie’s hookers in the alley. Unfortunately, in the course of discussing this issue with A-Tie, accusations were mutually leveled, and it wasn’t long before the discussion turned into an argument, and then an outright brawl. It was at that point that Sui Zhongyi’s men had pulled out their knives and stabbed A-Tie.
For Jiang Zhengkai, arresting these two men was like hitting two birds with one stone. First of all, he’d successfully arrested two of the men involved in the attack on A-Tie. But even beyond that, now he was able to confirm that three of the male victims of the serial murders, whose identities had hitherto been unknown, were soldiers in Sui Zhongyi’s newly formed crime family. It was highly likely that those three men would turn out to be the very same three men that had turned up missing in the national narcotics database: Zhao Renchu, Guo Dinggang, and Tang Xiaosheng. All three served Sui Zhongyi, and they were precisely the three men that Sui Zhongyi was looking for right now.
So it appeared that the serial murders in the alley and the drug ring from two years ago were related after all. But the most important question still remained: who was the serial killer? Was it really A-Xiu, or was it someone else? The truth would only be revealed after Jiang Zhengkai and Zhang Nan could dig a little deeper.
Early in the evening, Jiang Zhengkai parked his car outside the preschool well before A-Jiao was done with work. As she finished up her last class, A-Jiao looked out her window and saw the parked car outside. She quickly gathered her belongings, walked out the preschool’s front door, and got straight into Jiang Zhengkai’s car.
A-Jiao took a look at his smiling face and happily said, “You’re in a good mood today, Honey! Did you have a major break in your case?”
“I sure did!” smiled Jiang Zhengkai while he nodded his head. “We found out who attacked A-Tie this morning. As a matter of fact, we caught two of his attackers inside A-Shun’s home earlier in the afternoon.”
“Really?” A-Jiao become quite excited herself upon hearing the news. “You’re so awesome, Honey! I love you so much!”
“Hehe, I have to give you some credit, too, since it was you that reminded me about A-Shun,” Jiang Zhengkai said calmly as he looked at the excited A-Jiao. “If it weren’t for your reminder, we probably wouldn’t have cracked this case so quickly. Anyway, I thought you didn’t have any afternoon classes today. How come I didn’t see you coming from the art studio?”
“Ugh, don’t remind me. It’s all because of that Cui Jing,” A-Jiao replied. “I don’t know where the hell that girl went. She didn’t come to work today, and I couldn’t reach her on her cell either, so I ended up getting drafted to teach her afternoon classes.”
“Oh, I see,” Jiang Zhengkai nodded. He didn’t particularly care for A-Jiao’s co-workers, so he simply acknowledged her answer and didn’t ask any follow-up questions.
”You don’t think she’s in some of kind trouble, do you?” Unfortunately, A-Jiao was quite interested in this topic and wouldn’t let it go. “She didn’t look too good at work yesterday.”
“Is that so? Maybe she’s ill or had a fight with her boyfriend.” Jiang Zhengkai humored A-Jiao with one more sentence on this topic before deciding to change the subject. “What do you want to eat for dinner? You still need to teach your evening class.”
“Let’s go eat at Uncle Cai’s,” A-Jiao casually replied, before changing the subject back to Cui Jing. “Honey, if Cui Jing keeps not showing up to work, do you think the preschool should file a missing person’s report on her? Do you think something bad has happened to her…?”
* * *
In the apartment building across from the preschool, A-Meng stood in front of the window and looked at A-Jiao getting into Jiang Zhengkai’s car before they drove off. He knew that his mission for that afternoon had ended, so he immediately left his apartment. These days, he had a secondary mission, and that was to take care of Cui Jing while she was still at the hospital.
On the way to the hospital, A-Meng picked up some milk and other snacks. Men are strange creatures as well. They enjoy taking care of women who had no relation to them whatsoever, as long as they’re young and pretty. Perhaps doing so brings them some level of inexplicable excitement?
“You’re awake,” said A-Meng as he walked into Cui Jing’s hospital room and casually placed the bag of groceries on a nightstand. “The hospital isn’t serving dinner just yet. If you’re hungry, I can go get you something.”
“Why would I want you to get me something?” Cui Jing brusquely asked A-Meng while lying on the hospital bed. Clearly, her recovery was swift enough that she was well on her way to returning to her former self. She already had the wherewithal to question why A-Meng wanted to take care of her. Did he have some ulterior motives for doing so?
“Oh?” A-Meng was taken aback by Cui Jing’s question. She has a point. Who am I to her? Why should she accept my help anyway? “Then… I guess you can go get it yourself!” A-Meng replied helplessly as he shrugged his shoulders.
“Hmph! I’ve got no money.” Cui Jing sat up on the hospital bed with a stiff upper lip and an angry expression on her face. “Tell me, where’s my wallet?”
“Hehe!” A-Meng sat down on her hospital bed. “Hey beautiful, are you still running a high fever? Because you’re not making any sense right now. I saved your life, and this is how you repay me? Fuck if I know where you wallet is!”
“Then… where is my cell phone?” A-Meng’s blunt remarks cut Cui Jing’s arrogance down by half a notch. Asking about her wallet was indeed somewhat of a frivolous gesture, but she also had a legitimate reason for doing so: inside her wallet was a photo of her and Li Hongbin, and she didn’t want A-Meng to see that right now.
“Cell phone?” asked A-Meng as he gave her the side eye. “I didn’t see you carrying that either. But if you insist that I stole yours, then I guess I’ll get you a new one.”
“Oh, hehe, that’s a deal then!” Cui Jing used her elbows to prop up her body on the hospital bed. She then reached out her hand towards A-Meng and playfully ordered, “Well, hand it over then!”