Chapter 113: An Unexpected Murder
Jiang Zhengkai and Sui Zhongyi spoke for about an hour before a nurse entered and cut them off. Even though Sui Zhongyi’s condition seemed stable, he had nevertheless only just woken up from a coma mere hours earlier. Therefore, an hour-long conversation was already quite a taxing endeavor for his body. Still, it was as Sui Zhongyi himself said: being half-dead meant he was golden. There was no way the police were going to let him die in a hospital room; if anything, they had to make sure he lasted until the date of his execution.
Jiang Zhengkai got up and left Sui Zhongyi’s hospital room. He stood in the hallway with Lu Xiaoqiang for a moment before looking over and asking, “A-Tie hasn’t been discharged yet, has he?”
“Nope!” Lu Xiaoqiang shook his head confidently. “They’ve got people taking turns keeping watch on him: some from Sergeant Zhang’s station, some from ours.”
“Excellent! Let’s go and pay him a visit then!” said Jiang Zhengkai as he trotted down towards A-Tie’s hospital room.
Two police officers stood guard outside the room. One of them stood at attention as soon as he saw Jiang Zhengkai. “You’re here, Inspector Jiang!”
“Yes, I am. Keep up the good work,” Jiang Zhengkai politely remarked. He glanced over at the other officer. Not someone he recognized; must be one of Zhang Nan’s men. “How’s A-Tie’s condition?” he asked as he shifted his attention back to his own subordinate. “Can he talk?”
“Yes!” the officer answered confidently/ “But his condition isn’t too good. The doctors said his wounds have become infected.”
“I see. Well, I’ll go inside and take a look,” said Jiang Zhengkai. He pushed the door open and walked into A-Tie’s hospital room. Another two other police officers stood guard inside the room as well: one from the Investigative Division and one from the local station.
Sensing movement, A-Tie raised the hospital bed’s mechanical headrest so he could see who had just walked in. “Hi, Inspector Jiang!” he said upon seeing that it was Jiang Zhengkai. Compared to the last time Jiang Zhengkai had seen him, A-Tie did indeed look much frailer. Looked like the officer outside was right: A-Tie’s condition had indeed deteriorated.
“Yeah, I came by to see you,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he sat down beside A-Tie’s hospital bed. “I’m afraid we were in kind of a hurry. Sorry to come empty-handed.” He took out a hundred yuan from his pocket and handed it over to one of the officers watching over A-Tie. “Hey, go get him some fruit when your shift’s over.”
“No need, Inspector… Inspector Jiang!” A-Tie struggled to shake his head as he lay on the hospital bed. “To tell you the truth, I don’t want to eat anything right now. I have a feeling I don’t have too much time left in this world.”
“Hey, what are you talking about?” retorted Jiang Zhengkai as he looked over A-Tie. “Just take it easy. Modern medicine can work wonders, so I’m sure you’ll make a full recovery.”
“Hehe, no one knows my body better than I do…” A bittersweet smile appeared on A-Tie’s face. After a moment, he turned his gaze back to Jiang Zhengkai. “You came to ask me some more questions, right?”
“No, actually. I just came by to see you,” Jiang Zhengkai smilingly replied. “And to tell you that Sui Zhongyi has been apprehended. He’s injured as well, and is recovering in the next ward over.”
“Hehe, good… very good!” A-Tie forced out a smile. “That’s very good.”
“Take care and rest up. Oh right, last time when you said that A-Xiu had died…” Even though Jiang Zhengkai had said he wasn’t here to ask A-Tie about the case, he couldn’t help but ask the question that was burning in his mind.
“Inspector Jiang, I knew you were going to ask me about that,” A-Tie chuckled. “Ai! A-Xiu’s dead. She died two and a half years ago!”
“Two and a half years ago?” Jiang Zhengkai repeated as his eyes opened wide in disbelief. Up until now, this case had hinged on finding its prime suspect, A-Xiu. Yet here was A-Tie saying that she had died over two years ago.
“Yes, it’s true,” A-Tie softly nodded. “I buried her myself, so I would know.”
“You did? Then she… then how did A-Xiu die?” Upon hearing the latest revelation, Jiang Zhengkai became even more astonished, but his facial expression quickly returned to normal. “A-Tie, can you recall the situation at that time?”
“Sure.” A-Tie then closed his eyes and cleared his throat before his eyes opened again. “It was a few days after A-Xiu had returned from the police station. A woman named A-Lian came and found me, said A-Xiu was about to die and wanted my help burying her. After hearing A-Lian out, I went with her to A-Xiu’s room. There, I found that A-Xiu had already died. Her body was all contorted, clearly the result of inhumane torture.
“At the time, I inspected A-Xiu’s body, and I also asked A-Lian what had happened…” At this point, A-Tie cleared his throat again before continuing. “A-Lian told me that A-Xiu had owed her fellow sisters quite a bit of money, and when she couldn’t pay up, they force-fed her… salt water.” After he spoke, A-Tie’s expression became very strange, as if he had returned to that day, and A-Xiu’s dead body was lying in front of him. Yes, it must have been quite a frightful scene indeed.
“Why did A-Lian come find you?” asked Jiang Zhengkai, trying to calm A-Tie’s nerves with a simple question unrelated to A-Xiu. He also asked it because he wanted to better ascertain the situation surrounding her death.
“A-Lian’s from the same hometown as me,” A-Tie slowly replied. “Usually when a girl dies in the alley, they would go and find A-Shun. Only this time, A-Xiu didn’t die in the middle of doing her… work. She was killed by her fellow sisters, which is why A-Lian came to me. I have a pretty good relationship with A-Lian, given that we are from the same town and all. Anyway, it’s always me and A-Shun that end up making sure everything is taken care of every time a girl dies, so I didn’t disclose to anyone else what happened to A-Xiu. I just had A-Lian help me bury her.” A-Tie quietly sighed. “Ai! Karma’s a bitch! What’s happening to me right now is karmic retribution!”
“Do you know which of the women were involved in A-Xiu’s murder?” Jiang Zhengkai probed further when he saw that A-Tie didn’t try to resist answering his previous question.
“Later, I asked A-Lian. There were about a half dozen involved,” A-Tie answered after thinking for a while. “They didn’t mean to kill her at first, but… but they screwed up, and A-Xiu wound up dead.”
“Do you still remember their names?” Jiang Zhengkai continued asking.
“A-Hua, A-Hui, A-Xue, A-Bi… I think there was also an A-Ying, and of course A-Lian.” A-Tie recounted the names of the women from his memory.
After hearing A-Tie list off those names, Jiang Zhengkai turned around to look at Lu Xiaoqiang. The latter nodded at him to signal that he had already written down all of the women’s names. Jiang Zhengkai turned his head back towards A-Tie and said, “A-Tie, do you still remember where A-Xiu was buried?”
“Yes!” A-Tie’s breathing had become somewhat labored by this point, and it was punctuated by a violent coughing spell. “She was buried… right in… ahem ahem… right in the alley… ahem… ahem…”
“Quick, call a doctor!” When Jiang Zhengkai saw the change in A-Tie’s expression, he immediately jumped up and started rubbing A-Tie’s chest while barking orders at the other police officers in the room.
Medical personnel quickly entered the hospital room and worked to stabilize A-Tie’s condition. After about ten minutes, it finally stabilized. All of this activity had completely worn A-Tie out, and he quickly fell asleep. Afterwards, Jiang Zhengkai once again reiterated to the police officers inside the hospital room that they must do everything they can to ensure A-Tie’s survival and recovery. He and Lu Xiaoqiang then left the hospital room.
The two of them climbed into their police cruiser. Jiang Zhengkai gave Lu Xiaoqiang only one simple order: “Return to the sub-bureau!” He then entered one of his quiet pensive moods again. Based on the circumstances, it was highly unlikely that A-Tie was lying. Since A-Xiu was dead, did that mean the serial murder case was no longer related to the alley drug ring case? But if the two cases were unrelated, then why did the women who were involved in A-Xiu’s killing all end up dead? Were these revenge murders? Was there someone out there avenging A-Xiu’s murder? If so, who could that person be?
At that thought, Jiang Zhengkai frowned so hard that he practically had a unibrow. It was because at that moment, A-Jiao’s face popped up in his head. Was it possible that person was A-Jiao?