Chapter 3: The Industrious A-Jiao
Time flew by very quickly. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, half a month passed without any breakthroughs whatsoever in the case. Nobody came by the municipal police bureau headquarters, any of the police sub-bureaus, or any of the myriad police stations that dotted the city to report a missing person. As a result, there was no way to ascertain the identity of this dead man who left behind nothing more than a pile of skin and bones.
Likewise, the police were also unable to gather any useful leads from Xiaomei’s side of the case. Jiang Zhengkai did later find out from A-Jiao that Xiaomei would wire money to her family every month. Her family lived in a place far, far away. Her mother had a serious illness and needed to be frequently hospitalized. Her older brother was still in college and dreamed of becoming a police officer one day. This poor girl was responsible for both her mother’s hospital bills and her brother’s college tuition. Xiaomei had just made the latest wire transfer to her family the day before she had died. When A-Jiao had provided this clue to Jiang Zhengkai, she had implored him to not disclose to the family the fact that Xiaomei had already passed away. She said she wanted that poor family to have just one more month of happiness. Jiang Zhengkai obliged her request.
Just like that, the case went cold. The two victims didn’t leave behind any credible leads. And ever since an armed robbery occurred in another part of the sub-bureau’s area of responsibility last week, active investigation into this strange homicide had been suspended. As such, things quickly returned to normal in the alley, and the lives of the women who worked there went back on track. After all, it doesn’t matter if you’re a prince or a pauper, everyone has to eat. There’s no such thing as a free lunch in this world. In fact, there’s no such thing as a free breakfast or dinner either.
A-Jiao was once again in the alley, swaying back and forth while waiting for clients. She and her sisters dressed as provocatively as ever. It may have seemed like these women had completely forgotten about Xiaomei entirely, but in fact, her death weighed heavily on A-Jiao’s mind. She was taking on many more clients than before, which made many of her sisters start talking about her behind her back.
“Look! A-Jiao took on seven or eight clients today.”
“Yeah, I know! Doesn’t she get tired?”
“It looks like she wants to earn as much as she can while she’s still young.”
“Ha! Doing it so many times a day; isn’t she afraid it’s gonna rot?”
However, these comments were only ever uttered behind A-Jiao’s back. After all, everybody was out there to turn tricks, so no one could fault her for hustling harder. Besides, A-Jiao’s alpha bitch personality was quite well-known in this alley, so none of her sisters had the audacity to openly provoke her. Even their pimps, A-Shun and A-Tie, knew better than to mess with her.
On one such night, A-Jiao, A-Hua, and A-Hui were together in the alley. They leaned against the wall, chatting away with one another as they waited for clients. A group of young men far off into the distance walked towards them. “Hey, babe! Wanna play?” one of the men asked.
“Sure!” A-Hui was the first to respond. “How do you wanna play? All together or one on one?”
These young men looked at each other and laughed. They were just a bunch of old friends out for a get-together and may have had a bit too much to drink. They were out to cause a bit of mischief, but they weren’t seriously looking to hire prostitutes. “Let’s get out of here!” another of them said. “I have to go to work early tomorrow!”
“Same here! No one here’s actually going to hire a hooker,” a third one added.
A-Jiao particularly disliked the word “hooker”, so she decided to take a swipe at them. “What’s wrong, sweetheart? Ran out of money?” she retorted. “If you ain’t got money, then don’t show your face here in Yanhua Alley! What, you guys think you’ll be able to find a free one-night stand here?”
“Who do you think you’re talking to?” one of the drunker members of the group angrily demanded. “Let me tell you something. I’ve got plenty of money, and I’m going to fuck the shit out of you tonight!”
“Well if you’ve got money, mister, then come on over,” A-Jiao said with puckered lips. “But just so you know, I do this for a living, so I ain’t afraid of getting fucked by you.”
“Alright! Challenge accepted!” This man then walked over to A-Jiao, grabbed her arm, and said, “You’re with me tonight!”
“Zhang Weidong!” the others yelled. “Just let it go!”
“I don’t think so! Everyone is getting laid tonight!” the drunkard called Zhang Weidong insisted. “I’m buying tonight, so if you’re not with me, then you’re against me!”
The other three young men stared speechlessly at one another. Since he put it that way, none of them could really leave. But after taking another look, they soon realized that there were only three women available for all of them.
“Okay, so who else wants to play with me tonight?” A-Jiao asked flirtatiously. “Two for 180! I’m giving you guys a 10% discount.”
“Alright, I guess I’ll go with Weidong,” said one of the three as he stepped forward.
“Fine, Li Chunhai, you look after Weidong,” said the other two. They took A-Hua and A-Hui and started to leave.
“Don’t be in such a rush, gentlemen!” A-Jiao said as she focused her eyes on Zhang Weidong. “Since someone’s buying tonight, why don’t you let him pay us first?”
“You got it!” said Zhang Weidong. He didn’t hesitate and immediately pulled four hundred yuan out of his pocket and slapped it into A-Jiao’s palm. “Keep the change, sweetheart! I’m going to fuck you to within an inch of your life tonight!”
“Thank you, my good sir!” A-Jiao said in a charming voice. She took two of the hundred-yuan bills and shoved them into her pocket before she handed A-Hua and A-Hui the other two bills. Afterwards, the three women took their respective clients and went inside the building.
Walking past the room where Xiaomei had died, A-Jiao shot a quick glance at the door. She felt a coldness emanating from that door, as if a pair of eyes were staring at her with a deadly gaze. However, she quickly calmed herself. After all, she’s not a coward, and Xiaomei isn’t the first sister to have died on her.
A-Hua and A-Hui picked two rooms on the second floor. The two of them took their clients inside their respective rooms and disappeared. A-Jiao took her two clients to the third floor, only to find that the room was already occupied. That meant the only unoccupied room in this building was the room where Xiaomei had died.
“Don’t you know where the hell you’re going?” asked Zhang Weidong. A most lecherous smile spread across his face as he reached out his hand and pinched A-Jiao’s buttocks. “If you can’t find a room, we can do it right here in the hallway, haha!”
Even though A-Jiao was relatively thick-skinned, she was still a woman, and Zhang Weidong’s crude comment made her blush involuntarily.
“My my, feeling embarrassed, are we?” taunted Zhang Weidong as he leaned towards A-Jiao’s face with slobbery kisses.
“You’re gross!” A-Jiao turned her face and successfully dodged Zhang Weidong’s assault. Luckily for A-Jiao, Zhang Weidong was already drunk, which meant he wasn’t as coordinated as he would have been had he been sober. “Come on, let’s go back downstairs!” A-Jiao grit her teeth and finally decided to bring her two clients into the room where Xiaomei had died.
As soon as she entered the room, A-Jiao felt a ghastly chill wash over her. The skeletons that had once been Xiaomei and her client had long been removed by the police. The bed that was last touched by the two victims was now covered in dust, but under the poor lighting, it didn’t actually look that dirty. Besides, Xiaomei had been a bit of a neat freak. She had just washed these sheets the day she had died.
Alas, A-Jiao had returned to this cursed bed. “Alright, Prince Charming! Let me–” Before A-Jiao could finish, Zhang Weidong pushed her directly onto the bed. Not only that, he also barked orders to Li Chunhai. “Chunhai, help me hold her down! I want her to know who’s boss here.” He then removed A-Jiao’s panties and mounted her.
The lamp in the room flickered on and off. Under the dim light, two men and a woman unleashed their most primal desires in a business transaction that involved trading money for sex. Even though this most ancient of professions isn’t considered acceptable in most societies, it has nevertheless found a sanctuary in the obscure outskirts of this city.
The three people in the room let out a continuous stream of grunts and moans. Just as they were heavily engaged in sexual intercourse, a woman’s shrill shriek emanated from the room right above them. The three people in Xiaomei’s room all stopped what they were doing and simultaneously raised their heads towards the ceiling.
But after having been tossed about by both Zhang Weidong and Li Chunhai, A-Jiao was truly exhausted. Even though she felt scared, her physical exhaustion greatly surpassed her concern for her sisters’ safety and her inner fears. Since she saw the two men had stopped physically tormenting her, her powerless body slid down into the bed. She really had been quite tired these past couple of days. Even though she chose to enter this “special” profession of her own volition, she had never truly devoted herself to it. Her recent change in work ethic was entirely because of Xiaomei, the poor woman who had died in that room, and because of that woman’s impoverished family…