Chapter 2: Promiscuous Woman
The local police station was located on Ju’an Road. In accordance with standard naming conventions of China’s law enforcement system, the station was naturally named Ju’an Road Police Station. It was a courtyard-style compound. Upon entering, there was an open courtyard that served as a parking lot. Further inside was a small three-story building. The first floor had a row of rooms with iron bars and poor natural lighting. Naturally, these were the holding cells for suspected law breakers. At the moment, A-Shun, A-Tie, and A-Jiao were all being held there. Although these three were the ones who reported the homicide, they were also the case’s prime suspects. After all, they were members of a rather illicit profession.
Interrogating A-Shun and A-Tie was easy. These two men were frequent visitors to the station, so they were familiar with standard police procedure. They were very cooperative in divulging what they saw that day. After all, their whole job was to keep watch over the prostitutes’ workplace. But it didn’t matter how good the police interrogators were; the two of them couldn’t mention anything that they didn’t actually know. All they said was, “We were there to help. We kicked open the door and saw the dead bodies. Comrade Police Officer, you can’t charge us with murder just based on that, can you?” They’re right, I can’t, thought Jiang Zhengkai. After all, China is now a society governed by the rule of law.
Finally, there was that woman called A-Jiao. She came out of her holding cell escorted by two female police officers who walked behind her. The three of them all entered the interrogation room together.
“Name?” asked the police clerk Wei Xin. Wei Xin was a new college graduate, and she frequently accompanied Jiang Zhengkai. She more or less acted as his personal assistant.
“A-Jiao,” replied A-Jiao.
“Is that your real name?” Wei Xin pressed her.
“I don’t know! Sister, they all call me A-Jiao,” A-Jiao impatiently answered.
“Answer the question seriously! What is your name?” Wei Xin bellowed at A-Jiao. Clearly, she was a bit angry.
“I guess it’d be Lin A-Jiao then,” A-Jiao casually replied.
“Place of birth?” Since A-Jiao had actually answered the previous question, Wei Xin continued down her list.
“Sister, I’m a witness, not a criminal. Aren’t you making some kind of a mistake here?” A-Jiao looked at Wei Xin impatiently. She then crossed her legs and started swinging them back and forth. “I’m from Turpan!”
“Your… profession?” asked Wei Xin.
“I’m a saleswoman,” A-Jiao glanced at Wei Xin with a smirk on her face.
“What do you sell?” Wei Xin continued to ask.
“I sell meat,” A-Jiao’s voice grew noticeably louder. However, she squirmed in her seat a couple of times and then stopped looking at Wei Xin.
“Ha!” snorted Jiang Zhengkai as he tried unsuccessfully to hold back a laugh. He waved his hand at Wei Xin, signalling his intent to take over from here. “A-Jiao, let me ask you this. What were you doing and what did you see at approximately 9 PM this past evening?”
“What?” A-Jiao glanced at Jiang Zhengkai. “I was working. A client showed up and started talking to Xiaomei and me. In the end, he decided to go with Xiaomei. As for what happened afterwards, you all saw it for yourselves.” She didn’t say that the man started talking to her first. If the police knew about that, then they would be asking even more questions. She wasn’t one to bring unwanted attention upon herself.
“The deceased girl, Xiaomei; whom did she usually associate with? Was there any one person in particular?” Jiang Zhengkai continued probing.
“Whom did she associate with?” A-Jiao sized up Jiang Zhengkai and replied, “Comrade Police Officer, we only associate with money, you know. As for people, I’m afraid I don’t remember. There are so many, and they come in all shapes and sizes, so how can I possibly remember them all?”
“Hmph!” Jiang Zhengkai sneered. He rubbed his nose as he continued. “Okay, so what about that client you mentioned just now? What did he look like?”
“Him?” A-Jiao recollected her thoughts and said, “Kinda young, kinda handsome, and kinda strong. That’s all I can remember.”
“Alright,” Jiang Zhengkai said with a nod. “Now I want you to go over the details again. Precisely describe everything you saw or encountered between the time you heard the scream and the time you entered the room.”
“Okay. After Xiaomei left, I…” A-Jiao answered Jiang Zhengkai’s question as best she could. Even though she was a lady of the night, it didn’t mean she didn’t want the police to find the killer and avenge her friend’s death. After all, someone had ended a young woman’s life before her time.
“Alright, that should do it.” Once Jiang Zhengkai finished hearing A-Jiao’s account of the events, he placed his arms on the table in front of him. “Thank you for providing your recollection of the events. You will be released first thing tomorrow morning. Just make sure to… oh, never mind. That’s all for today.” He waved his hand, motioning for the female police officers to escort A-Jiao away. He originally wanted to tell her to stay out of trouble and to find a more decent line of work, but based on his many years as a police officer, he knew that such words were useless to the likes of A-Jiao. Therefore, he decided to save his breath.
“Thank you, Comrade Police Officer.” A-Jiao put on her high heels once again and then wobbled her way up to an upright position. After sitting down for so long, could one really expect A-Jiao to stand up in a ladylike fashion? I’m just here to turn tricks, thought A-Jiao. She turned around and headed out of the interrogation room under the escort of the two female police officers. When she reached the door, she turned her head around, looked at Wei Xin, and provocatively blew a kiss her way. “Sister Police Officer, there’s one question you forgot to ask! I’m twenty-two years old!” With that, she fixed Wei Xin with a cold glare and walked out of the room.
“Hehe!” Jiang Zhengkai watched as A-Jiao left the interrogation room. He turned his head just in time to see Wei Xin’s ashen face. He smiled at her and jokingly said, “Wei, if you don’t want to take shit from her, then I’ll get them to assign you to vice squad tomorrow. You can arrest her and see if she dares to smart mouth you again!”
“Bah!” Wei Xin angrily replied. “I’m not going to lower myself to her level.” After a pause, she looked worshipfully at Jiang Zhengkai and asked, “Inspector Jiang, what do you think about this case?”
“Beats me,” Jiang Zhengkai replied as he shook his head. “Our colleagues over at CSI already called over. They didn’t find any ID among the male victim’s personal effects. He didn’t carry a cell phone either. However, from the style of his clothes, it doesn’t look like he’s a migrant worker. He seemed like someone with a proper job.”
“Then, from what you’re saying,” Wei Xin replied as she followed Jiang Zhengkai’s logic, “could it be that between the time the two victims died and the time the witnesses arrived, someone stole his ID card?”
“That is a possibility,” Jiang Zhengkai nodded, “But how did the suspect get into the room in the first place, and how did they get out again?” He pondered for a while and then picked up the phone to call Zhang Nan. “Sergeant Zhang, do we have officers guarding the areas surrounding the scene of the crime tonight?”
“Yes, sir!” Zhang Nan said over the phone.
“Then tell them to pay attention to the building’s windows. Don’t let anyone walk about outside those windows. Also, make sure to monitor everyone who tries approaching the windows.” If A-Shun and A-Tie were telling the truth, then the killer’s only way in and out of the room were the windows. A-Jiao had been standing at the bottom of the stairs, which meant that if anyone walked up or down the stairs or even opened or closed the door to the room, A-Jiao would necessarily have seen or heard them.
The rest of the night passed without incident. The following morning, Jiang Zhengkai and Wei Xin returned to the scene of the crime. First, Jiang Zhengkai looked over all of the fixtures in the room once again. He then carefully examined the windows. The lock on them was very tight. It took a considerable amount of effort to move it. Finally, he and Wei Xin went around to the back of the house. There were two police officers there guarding the area.
“Anything happen last night?” Jiang Zhengkai asked these two officers.
“No, sir,” answered one of the police officers. “From last night until the present time, no one has approached or even tried to come close to the windows.” Jiang Zhengkai heard their report and nodded. He walked beneath the window and began scrutinizing the ground.
“Inspector Jiang!” Wei Xin exclaimed. “Look over there! A footprint!” She pointed to a distinct footprint in the mud outside the window.
“Aha! Excellent,” replied Jiang Zhengkai as he, too, saw the footprint. “This is a very important discovery! Immediately notify our colleagues over at CSI.” As soon as she heard the order, Wei Xin immediately ran over towards the CSI team. Perhaps this footprint could be the key to cracking the case.
Upon their return to the station, Jiang Zhengkai and Wei Xin ran into A-Jiao, on her way out through the parking lot. Jiang Zhengkai stopped dead in his tracks and called over to her. “A-Jiao! Wait a second. I have something to ask you.” Before he continued, he looked over his surroundings to make sure no one else was near them. “About that room; do people ever go in or out of it by using the windows?”
“Brother Police Officer, you’ve never done any vice work, have you?” asked A-Jiao as she revealed a crooked smile. She looked at Jiang Zhengkai with obvious contempt. “In our line of work, there is never just one way in or out of a room.”
“So what you’re saying is…?” Although Jiang Zhengkai knew what A-Jiao was implying, he nevertheless pressed her to provide the full answer.
“The windows where we work aren’t that high up. As long as the clients aren’t amputees or senior citizens, they can always slip out by just jumping out the window.” A-Jiao’s expression changed as she looked at Jiang Zhengkai with a flirtatious glimmer in her eyes. “Anyway, mister! If that’s all you’ve got for me, I think I’m going to go back home and sleep. Of course, if you want to help my daytime business, I’d be more than happy to service you free of charge.”
“You…” Jiang Zhengkai gave her a furious glare. “Don’t think I won’t arrest you right here, right now!”
“My goodness! Even one-night stands are illegal these days?” A-Jiao asked as she gave him a charming wink. “Alright, alright! Don’t get so offended. You’ve scared me straight, okay? Besides, it’s broad daylight now, so it’s technically not a one-night stand. Plus, if you don’t pay me, and I consent to the act, then it’s technically not even prostitution, is it?” With that, she twisted her waist around and walked out of the station courtyard.
“What a damn promiscuous woman!” Jiang Zhengkai spat on the ground in front of him and forcefully crushed the spit into the ground with his foot. He then headed towards the police station’s small three-story building.