Chapter 63: The Search for the Black Spots
A-Jiao was eating lunch in the preschool cafeteria when she naturally started thinking about her beloved Jiang Zhengkai. What was he doing right now? thought A-Jiao as she pulled out her cell phone. A woman who had fallen head over heels for a man was always like this. She would feel uneasy whenever her man wasn’t right next to her. She wished she could find some rope and tie him to her waistband.
“Honey, what are you doing?” A-Jiao playfully complained into the phone. “You haven’t called me all morning!”
“Hehe, my dear girl, we’ve only been apart for a little while, and you already miss me?” Jiang Zhengkai said. “I’m too busy today, but I’ll remember to call you in the mornings from now on.” His voice fell silent for about a minute before he came back on, but in a lower tone. “There was another murder in the alley last night, just like the ones before. I’m busy working on this case right now. I thought you knew that was the reason why I left in the middle of the night.”
“Oh, alright!” A-Jiao said disappointingly. She knew Jiang Zhengkai had work to do and didn’t have time to talk to her. “Then tonight… tonight…” A-Jiao said without confidence. She wanted to ask if Jiang Zhengkai could take her to work with him, but she thought better than to ask it.
“I’ll come pick you up tonight! You have night classes tonight, right?” said Jiang Zhengkai once again. He sounded very sure, without a shadow of a doubt.
“Okay, okay!” A-Jiao replied in a hurry as she nodded. “I want to eat at Uncle Cai’s tonight. If you’ve got time, you can join me there! After I’m done with my classes, I’ll wait for you at the preschool. Don’t forget to eat!”
“Alright, got it!” came Jiang Zhengkai’s cheerful voice. Women were always a bit wordy when it came to their significant others. They reserved this extra amount of verbal attention only for those they truly loved.
A-Jiao hung up the phone, disappointed. She then turned around and walked into her art studio. These days, A-Jiao liked to spend her free time painting inside her studio. It wasn’t like she was in need of any money; rather, it was because she didn’t like to go out alone. Now that she no longer had to work in the alley, there was no need to spend money packaging herself. She rather thought of herself like merchandise. The packaging on a piece of merchandise waiting to be sold is very different from the packaging of a piece of merchandise that has already been sold. A-Jiao these days is like a piece of sold merchandise, and she will never be on sale again.
On the other side of the phone, Jiang Zhengkai let out a slight sigh after he hung up. He knew A-Jiao bore him a sincere and ardent love. Likewise, he truly loved A-Jiao as well. Nevertheless, he did tell a little white lie while he was on the phone with her just now. Even though there was another murder case in the alley, he wasn’t actually busy right now. The alley murders were all unsolved mysteries, so despite the fact that all of his subordinates were running around looking for evidence, he knew none of them would find anything useful. The people who had knowledge of what had happened had either turned into skeletons or were not on friendly terms with the police. After all, the way prostitutes viewed the police was akin to the way a mouse would view a cat.
Jiang Zhengkai couldn’t bear the thought of asking A-Jiao directly of her time in the alley because he didn’t want to hurt the woman he loved, but he knew that he couldn’t make any progress with the case if he didn’t ask her. On this subject, his heart was especially conflicted, which was why he had paused for almost a minute on the phone. He was hoping that A-Jiao would volunteer to help and proactively tell him what she knew. Nevertheless, he trusted A-Jiao, trusted that the woman he loved could not in any way be involved in those murders.
“Inspector Jiang, shall we depart?” Lu Xiaoqiang warmly asked as he entered Jiang Zhengkai’s office. “Sergeant Zhang is all set up.”
“Alright then,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he stood up to leave. “Let’s go check out the crime scene!”
At the scene of the seventh murder, Jiang Zhengkai, Zhang Nan, Lu Xiaoqiang, and Mu Mingyuan from the Material Evidence Division all stood inside the room where the murder had occurred. They carefully observed the building across from them. According to Wu Xiuping, the black spots were most likely a refraction of light reflected off the building opposite where they were. This hypothesis was acceptable to both Jiang Zhengkai and to the analysts at the Material Evidence Division, but a hypothesis was only a hypothesis. They needed to find evidence to support it.
“It looks like these windows are the most suspicious,” said Mu Mingyuan as he pointed at the photograph in Jiang Zhengkai’s hand. “Inspector Jiang, Sergeant Zhang, could you send some men to investigate the backgrounds of these units?”
“Done!” simultaneously said both Jiang Zhengkai and Zhang Nan in response to Mu Mingyuan’s request. Zhang Nan then wrote down the positions of the various windows that Mu Mingyuan had pointed out and gave them to one of his officers. “Guo Wei, go coordinate with our colleagues responsible for household registrations and have them search these housing units. Remember to not give those households any reason for alarm.”
“Understood, Sergeant Zhang,” acknowledged the officer called Guo Wei as he turned around and left the room.
The entire afternoon, members of Ju’an Police Station’s Household Registration Section busily searched the designated units and interviewed their occupants. Of the seven windows that Mu Mingyuan had circled, five of them were in units where nobody responded, while the remaining two were in units inhabited by two elderly couples. They very warmly welcomed the police officers sent to interview them. Meanwhile, the officers eliminated these two households as possible suspects. First of all, their body shapes didn’t match the shape of the black spots in the photographs. Second, there was no way an elderly person could overpower two people in their prime. Furthermore, none of their children lived in the city, and they said in a sworn statement that they have never rented their units out to a third party.
The police were able to corroborate the testimony of the elderly couples with testimony by the building manager. Chinese cities have a well-organized neighborhood watch system. Although far from perfect, it is much more efficient than anything foreign cities may have. Of course, the system does occasionally fail. After all, even paid services sometimes fail to perform, much less services supplied entirely by volunteers. However, the alley’s neighborhood watch system was working for now, so the testimony offered by the elderly couples was proven to be accurate.
Of the other five units, two of them were inhabited by local residents, while the other three had been “rented out.” These units were rented out to the local pimps A-Shun and A-Tie for use by their girls, which could be construed as bringing in economic activity to an otherwise economically depressed neighborhood. Units in the alley that were actually being rented out for use as dwellings for people like Wu Xiuping were in fact quite rare.
However, this actually made things a bit easier. For those units that were being used as brothels, the police need only contact A-Shun and A-Tie for them to open the units up for inspection. The only units that the police hadn’t been able to inspect were the two where the inhabitants were local residents. Still, the police station had their household registration records, and their conversation with the building manager revealed that both families went to work during the day and came back in the evening. Therefore, the police could simply return at night to interview the inhabitants and search the premises.
This information very quickly arrived in the hands of Jiang Zhengkai. He carefully reviewed documents relating to the families in the remaining two units. The male inhabitant in one of the units was an employee of an import-export company, while the male inhabitant in the other unit was a meat merchant. These days, you could no longer refer to someone who sold meat as a “butcher.” The euphemism now was “meat merchant.”
As for documents on the female inhabitants, Jiang Zhengkai only casually flipped through them. He didn’t think their professions had any relationship with the murders. To be a serial killer required above-average physical strength and incredible emotional detachment. These traits were usually not characteristic of women. Therefore, the only thing he needed to do was compare the figures of these two women with the shape of the black spots in the photos.
“Neither of them fit the shape!” muttered Jiang Zhengkai, who then handed the documents over to Mu Mingyuan. Mu Mingyuan had already seen the profile pictures of the two female inhabitants, so he only nodded in agreement. Jiang Zhengkai looked at the profile pictures one more time before turning around to ask Zhang Nan, “Any updates from A-Shun?”
“Not yet,” responded Zhang Nan. “Our people have already inspected the units. They are arranged in a manner similar to this one. According to A-Shun’s recollection, there were a lot of prostitutes working in the alley that night, so he can’t remember clearly who exactly were in these three units.”
“Alright then. Send our people to inspect these two units first tonight,” ordered Jiang Zhengkai. He then looked at Mu Mingyuan and said, “Let’s return at midnight and take another look at this place, see if there are any windows that we’ve missed.”
“Understood!” acknowledged Zhang Nan as he retrieved the documents from Mu Mingyuan. “It’s getting late. Why don’t we all grab some dinner?”
“Alright!” replied Jiang Zhengkai, but then immediately shook his head. “Wait, I can’t. How about this; Xiaoqiang, why don’t you take Sergeant Zhang and Mingyuan to dinner. Give me the receipt so I can reimburse you. Regardless, I’m buying tonight.”
“Come on, let’s all go together,” insisted Zhang Nan, seeing Jiang Zhengkai’s attempt to back out. “We’ve been at it for the whole day. I’ll buy, but you have to come!”
“Sergeant Zhang, the inspector has another mission tonight.” Noticing that Jiang Zhengkai’s expression was becoming increasingly awkward, Lu Xiaoqiang immediately stepped in. “But the three of us can still go!”
“Oh, alright,” acquiesced Zhang Nan, as Lu Xiaoqiang repeatedly winked at him. He wasn’t so stupid that he couldn’t take a hint. “Well, so I’ll see you later tonight?”
“Sounds good! I’ll probably make it over sometime around 10PM. I’ll leave tonight’s planning up to you, Zhang,” Jiang Zhengkai smilingly said to Zhang Nan once he saw Zhang Nan had relented.
“No problem!” replied Zhang Nan. “See you tonight!” They then left the crime scene and went their separate ways.