Chapter 114: The Long Explanation
After returning to the sub-bureau, Jiang Zhengkai immediately called Zhang Nan to inform him of the situation. He also ordered Liu Kun and Du Yuting to lead a small task force into the alley. Right now, their number one priority was to surveill and protect the two women who’d been involved in A-Xiu’s murder and were still alive. They now held the key to perhaps finally solving this case.
After doing all of that, Jiang Zhengkai returned to his desk. Now was the time to use that intelligent brain of his to go over the overall progress of this case. All the evidence he’d collected about the serial murders seemed to be pointing to the conclusion that someone had killed off all those people in order to avenge A-Xiu. Nevertheless, there were still many unanswered questions that required an explanation.
The first murder had involved A-Mei and Zhao Renchu; Zhao had had a prior relationship with A-Xiu. The second murder had involved A-Hua and Yin Tao, with A-Hua having been involved in A-Xiu’s murder. The fourth murder had involved A-Dan and Tang Xiaosheng; Tang had been one of Sui Dequan’s henchmen, so he’d probably had some type of connection with A-Xiu as well. The sixth murder had involved A-Di and Cao Shucong; A-Di and A-Xiu came from the same hometown, and the two had lived together immediately prior to A-Xiu’s death, so A-Di was inextricably connected to A-Xiu as well. The seventh murder had involved A-Lian and Guo Dinggang, both of whom had connections with A-Xiu. The eighth murder had involved A-Xue and Zhao Shuhai, with A-Xue being another one of the women involved in A-Xiu’s murder. And the ninth murder had involved had A-Bi and Liu Chengjiang; again, A-Bi had been one of A-Xiu’s co-murderers.
But that still left the third and fifth murders. What type of connection did the victims in those two murders have with A-Xiu? Trying to puzzle it out made Jiang Zhengkai furrow his brow even tighter. Was there some missing clue he hadn’t discovered about those four victims: A-Li, Liu Nanquan, Yin Zhumei, and Zhu Yuping? Did they have some kind of a secret connection to A-Xiu? He circled all four of their names on his whiteboard.
Finally, Jiang Zhengkai shifted his attention to A-Di’s name. According to A-Jiao, A-Di had met with A-Xiu shortly before A-Xiu’s stint at the local police station. Afterwards, A-Xiu left town, and so did A-Di. Moreover, A-Ping had said that A-Di should have been in this city during the time A-Xiu was being interrogated in the police station. She also said that A-Di hadn’t wanted to return to the city, but eventually agreed to do so. If what A-Ping had said was true, then did that mean A-Di had also been involved in A-Xiu’s death? Maybe A-Di had stolen A-Xiu’s money, and that was what eventually resulted in A-Xiu’s death?
A-Di stole A-Xiu’s money… Jiang Zhengkai’s mind lingered on this thought. If that really were the case, then that could explain why wire payments to A-Xiu’s family back home had continued unabated for three months after her death. Maybe A-Di had felt guilty for stealing A-Xiu’s money and causing her death? But A-Di hadn’t actually been involved in A-Xiu’s murder, and A-Tie never told anyone about A-Xiu’s death, so how did A-Di find out that A-Xiu had died? Perhaps A-Di had never learned about A-Xiu’s death at all, and instead the two of them already had some kind of a deal where A-Di would help A-Xiu wire money home?
Jiang Zhengkai sighed once more. Alas, A-Xiu and A-Di were dead, and dead women tell no tales. His only hope was to track down A-Hui and A-Ying, in the hopes that they knew something that could shed light on all of this.
Just then, his cell phone rang. A-Jiao’s voice crackled over the receiver. “Hey, Honey, are you not planning on picking me up today? If that’s the case, then I guess I’ll just walk home.”
As soon as Jiang Zhengkai heard A-Jiao’s voice, he sat up straight in his chair and stretched out. “Alright, just wait in the preschool for a bit. I’ll come over to pick you up right now. Remember not to go outside!”
He sprang up from his desk and walked out into the open office space. “Liu Na,” he called out as he walked, “tell our colleagues at the External Affairs Division to look into the withdrawal and wire transfer records of A-Xiu’s bank account. I want to know exactly when and where each transaction took place.”
Then he looked over towards Lu Xiaoqiang. “By the way, Xiaoqiang, are you going to the alley in the evenings? If so, go and find A-Ping. See if she can give you any additional leads regarding A-Di. See if she noticed any changes in A-Di’s demeanor or behavior before A-Di left the provincial capital and after she returned two and a half years ago.”
“Yes, Inspector Jiang!” Liu Na and Lu Xiaoqiang replied in unison. Jiang Zhengkai then quickly left the office to go pick up A-Jiao from the preschool.
A-Jiao stood inside the preschool’s front door. When she saw Jiang Zhengkai’s car park in front of the preschool, she happily ran over and climbed into the passenger seat. “You’re starting to take me for granted, aren’t you? Aren’t you afraid that someone will kidnap me again?”
“Hehe, no way!” laughed Jiang Zhengkai as he squeezed A-Jiao’s nose. “You’ve got good karma written all over you, so I’m sure nothing bad will happen. Besides, now that you look like a schoolteacher… never mind.”
“What?” A-Jiao didn’t know quite how to respond at first, but she soon caught Jiang Zhengkai’s drift. She balled her hands into fists and started pounding him as she shrieked, “What were you going to say? Were you going to say nobody wants me anymore? Tell me!”
“I didn’t say anything!” replied Jiang Zhengkai, as he dodged A-Jiao’s blows while trying to grab her hands. “I was going to say you’re so beautiful, and that I love the schoolteacher look!”
“Hmph! Whatever!” Although A-Jiao verbally protested, her heart nevertheless felt a sense of sweetness. “So, tell me! You’re saying all these nice things to me today because you need my help again, right?”
“Need your help, eh?” Seeing A-Jiao’s naughty face lifted Jiang Zhengkai’s spirits momentarily before he became serious once again. “Well, there is something I wanted to tell you, but I’m afraid it’ll upset you.”
“Oh? What is it?” Seeing Jiang Zhengkai’s expression turn grave, A-Jiao quietly sat down in the passenger seat. She stared out the windshield and said, “Go ahead and tell me. I’m not looking at you.”
“Oh, alright then!” When he saw A-Jiao like this, Jiang Zhengkai couldn’t help but smile. He knew she’d turned her face away because she didn’t want him to see her look upset. “I’m just going to say it, okay?”
“Yes, go ahead!” A-Jiao nodded as she sat in the passenger seat.
“A-Xiu’s dead. She died two and a half years ago. A-Tie buried her himself,” Jiang Zhengkai said in a soothing tone of voice as he carefully observed any changes in A-Jiao’s expression.
“She’s dead? Sister Xiu is dead?” exclaimed A-Jiao as she unhesitatingly turned towards Jiang Zhengkai and looked at him in shock. “How? But… she…” Clearly, she was at a loss for words.
“Yes, she’s dead.” Seeing A-Jiao’s expression, Jiang Zhengkai breathed a sigh of relief. No, it’s not her. She looks like this was the first she’s heard about A-Xiu’s death. “Earlier in the day I stopped by the hospital to check up on A-Tie. He personally told me that A-Xiu’s dead, that she had been killed by several other women from the alley.”
“Who did it?” A-Jiao blurted out. She timidly glanced at Jiang Zhengkai, unsure whether he would reveal the identities of the women involved.
“There were quite a few women involved,” replied Jiang Zhengkai as he observed A-Jiao’s every move. “A-Hua, A-Xue, A-Bi, and A-Lian.”
“Just those four?” asked A-Jiao, as she focused her attention on Jiang Zhengkai’s face once more. “I bet there were probably a few others, no? What about A-Hui and A-Ying?”
“A-Hui and A-Ying…?” Jiang Zhengkai noncommittally repeated the question. “Why do you think A-Hui and A-Ying were involved?”
“Because Sister Xiu was best friends with those two as well as the girls you mentioned,” replied A-Xiu as she delved into her memories. “Back then, I would go visit Sister Xiu at her place all the time. I often saw those other girls at her place discussing something or other. After Sister Xiu left, they all left the alley for some time as well. Afterwards, when I asked A-Hua and A-Hui about Sister Xiu’s whereabouts, they both said that she had gone back to her hometown and that it might take a while before she returned. Of course, Sister Xiu never did come back, and I never saw her again.”
“What about A-Ying? Did you know her well?” Jiang Zhengkai continued asking.
“Not really,” A-Jiao shook her head. “A-Ying… I think she’s still in the alley. I remember seeing her there just a few days before I was kidnapped…” She brushed away tears that had suddenly welled up in the corner of her eyes. “Why… why did they kill Sister Xiu?”
“They didn’t mean to kill her,” Jiang Zhengkai calmly said. “According to A-Tie, they had some kind of a financial dispute with her. In the midst of the struggle, A-Xiu was fatally injured and subsequently died.” He purposely hid the fact that A-Xiu had been forced to drink large quantities of saltwater and had died an excruciating death as the result of dehydration.
“I see…” muttered A-Jiao as she heard his explanation. “But when I went to gather Sister Xiu’s belongings, I didn’t see anything out of place… it didn’t look like there were any signs of a struggle…”