Chapter 66: Looking for the Black Spots at Night
A-Jiao and Jiang Zhengkai finished eating their meal. As always, A-Jiao inconspicuously left a cash payment for her meal underneath her bowl. She wasn’t actually serious when she told Uncle Cai she expected free noodles from now on. After all, it wasn’t easy for an elderly person to come all the way to the city to open up a noodle shop.
“Ziyuan, are you sure you want to go to the alley?” asked Jiang Zhengkai once the two of them had stepped out of Uncle Cai’s noodle shop. “Let me take you home instead. I promise I’ll be back before midnight,” he said as he stood firmly in front of her.
“No! I want to go with you,” responded A-Jiao. Her demeanor was very calm when she spoke. It looked like this time, she had truly mentally prepared herself to face her past. Ever since she’d gone with Jiang Zhengkai to the sub-bureau after her last hospital check-up, her heart had been feeling quite conflicted. Her decision to visit the alley today was the result of much careful consideration. Ultimately, the person who had compelled her to make this decision was actually A-Tao. In her mind, A-Jiao was still worried that A-Tao would harm Jiang Zhengkai. She was already prepared to sacrifice her own life for Jiang Zhengkai, so naturally before that moment came, she would be willing to do many other things for him as well.
“Alright!” When Jiang Zhengkai saw the resolve behind A-Jiao’s answer, he felt quite happy, inside even if he didn’t say it out loud. After all, having A-Jiao proactively offer to help him solve the case was something that he had dreamed of for a long time.
“Shall we get going then?” A-Jiao leaned into Jiang Zhengkai’s side and gently grabbed his arm. “What are you thinking about? Are we not going?”
“Yes, we are!” Jiang Zhengkai replied, before holding A-Jiao in his embrace. To be honest, it would be a hard thing to make her go back to that alley again; doing so was part of his job, but by now, his love for A-Jiao was already greater than his love for his profession. He took A-Jiao’s face in his hands. “Ziyuan, are you sure you’ve thought this through?”
“Let’s go already!” A-Jiao’s eyes flashed brightly as she looked at Jiang Zhengkai with longing eyes. “I won’t be afraid to go anywhere, as long as I’m with you.”
Hearing that, Jiang Zhengkai pulled A-Jiao close and held her tight. He didn’t want to say any more. Although he had accomplished his goal, his heart nevertheless felt empty inside. At this very moment, he was starting to question whether it was worth it for the woman he loved to make sacrifices for his career…
“Inspector Jiang, you’re early!” politely greeted a police officer as he saw Jiang Zhengkai and A-Jiao approaching the crime scene. He was guarding the scene of the sixth murder.
“That’s right!” laughed Jiang Zhengkai. He then turned around and pulled the bashful A-Jiao forward. “Take a seat and make yourself comfortable, Ziyuan.”
“Whoa, is that your new assistant, Inspector Jiang?” As soon as the police guard saw A-Jiao, he immediately pulled out a chair for her. “Sit here, miss!” No matter his profession, a man will always eagerly show a beautiful woman the proper courtesy.
“Thank you!” said A-Jiao as she gently smiled at the police guard. “But I don’t feel like sitting. I want to…” She paused, turned around, and tenderly looked at Jiang Zhengkai, but did not finish her sentence.
“Then… let’s go over to the windows,” said Jiang Zhengkai. He saw A-Jiao looking at him, so he placed one hand on her back as his other hand lifted up the chair that the police guard had just set down. He took the chair and walked with A-Jiao to the window. “Sit here and take a look at the night scenery. The alley is quite beautiful at night!”
“Uh-huh!” A-Jiao cutely replied, before following Jiang Zhengkai’s suggestion to sit down on the chair. Her gaze shifted from the layout of the room to the world outside. Indeed, the night scene outside the window was quite beautiful. With street lights adorning the narrow alley, it did exude something of a rustic charm.
About half an hour later, Zhang Nan, Mu Mingyuan, Lu Xiaoqiang, and several other officers from the local police station arrived at the crime scene. As soon as they entered the room, the ever-observant Mu Mingyuan was the first to spot something unusual. He looked at A-Jiao’s back. “What do we have here, Inspector Jiang? Did the Old Man give you another assistant?” he said, glancing over at Lu Xiaoqiang. “That Old Man Yao is far too partial towards you! I can’t believe he gave you a pair of assistants, and opposite genders no less!”
“Hehe; what, are you jealous?” retorted Jiang Zhengkai. While listening to Mu Mingyuan talk, he purposely squeezed A-Jiao’s shoulder as a signal for her to stay quiet. Nevertheless, he himself wasn’t sure how to introduce A-Jiao. He didn’t know for certain if any of the officers in this room would recognize her.
“Yeah, I’m jealous, and not just a little bit!” replied Mu Mingyuan, as he inched his way closer to the two of them. “Aren’t you going to introduce us, Inspector Jiang?” However, he was able to detect that something was off from Jiang Zhengkai’s movements. When Jiang Zhengkai placed his hand on A-Jiao’s shoulder, she simultaneously placed her hand on top of his, and even moved her head closer to his hand. Only a pair of lovers would exhibit such physical displays of affection.
At that moment, A-Jiao turned around, calmly got up, and introduced herself to Mu Mingyuan and all of the other police officers present in the room. “Hello, I’m Ren Ziyuan.” Although quite a few of the officers in the room had dealt with A-Jiao in the past, none of them would’ve imagined that this woman next to Jiang Zhengkai was in fact a former prostitute who had worked in this very alley. Therefore, no one questioned this beautiful young woman’s identity. Of course, there was one exception in the group, and that was Lu Xiaoqiang. Of all the officers in the room, he was only one who knew A-Jiao’s true identity. However, he chose to remain silent because he had resolved never to betray A-Jiao.
“Oh, Ren Ziyuan is it?” asked Zhang Nan as he repeated this name. He felt like he had met her before, but couldn’t quite put his finger on when or where. Nevertheless, that feeling didn’t stop him from joking around, “Is this the newest female officer in our precinct?”
“Quit playing!” Seeing how A-Jiao had handled Mu Mingyuan’s question with great poise, Jiang Zhengkai felt like he could relax a little. He placed his arm around her shoulder and said, “She’s my fiance!” Hearing what Jiang Zhengkai had just said, A-Jiao’s cheeks started to turn red, and she anxiously bowed her head. She didn’t know this was how he would introduce her in front of his colleagues. He didn’t try to conceal their relationship or dodge the question. Rather, he matter-of-factly told everything, “This woman is my future wife!”
Following Jiang Zhengkai’s declaration, time seemed to stand still for a moment in the room. Other than Lu Xiaoqiang, expressions of admiration, surprise, perhaps even a bit of jealousy hung on every face in the room. They could not comprehend how Jiang Zhengkai, an old bachelor 35 years of age, was able to find such a beautiful young woman willing to marry him.
“Hehe, this is so sudden!” Finally, it was Zhang Nan who broke the silence. “Jiang, this sure came outta nowhere! Hehe, why don’t you share some tips with us. None of us poor guys have women in our lives.” As he spoke, he pointed to the other police officers in the room.
“I’ve got no tips!” said Jiang Zhengkai. He affectionately looked at A-Jiao before raising his head and saying, “She was assigned to me by the boss.”
“You’re so annoying!” Before the other officers in the room could react, A-Jiao’s hand had already reached over to Jiang Zhengkai’s nose. “Who was assigned by the boss?”
“You, of course!” Jiang Zhengkai grabbed A-Jiao’s hand and softly removed it from his nose. “If you don’t believe me, go ask the Old Man himself!” Afterwards, he looked at all the other police officers in the room and said seriously, “The Old Man said as long as you work hard, he’ll give every one of you a wife!”
The group of officers erupted in laughter at Jiang Zhengkai’s joke. A side effect, and what Jiang Zhengkai had hoped for, was that everyone in the group gave up on asking about their back story. A police officer’s life might seem mundane to an outsider, but everyone had a way of adding color to their lives, regardless of their chosen profession.
Since A-Jiao was right there beside him, Jiang Zhengkai was no longer in a hurry to determine which window was the source of the refracting light. He now had the entire night to get to the bottom of that question. As such, he called for Mu Mingyuan, Zhang Nan, and the others to stand in front of the window and carefully observe what was happening in the building across from them. They waited until approximately the same time as when the last murder occurred before they engaged in their lighting experiment. Of course, their work during daylight hours had confirmed that every room behind those seven windows in the opposite building had working lights. Inside each and every one of those seven rooms now stood police officers, ready to turn on or off the lights at a moment’s notice.
“It looks like window number three and window number five are the most likely suspects,” Mu Mingyuan told Jiang Zhengkai after a series of tests. “At the right angle, lighting, and weather conditions, it is perhaps possible that those two windows could reflect light into this room.”
“Number three and number five, you said?” Jiang Zhengkai repeated Mu Mingyuan’s words as he flipped through the floorplans of those two units. Window number three belonged to a unit used by A-Shun to engage in the sex trade, while window number five belonged to the merchant who engaged in the meat trade.
“Inspector Jiang, there’s something I don’t understand.” After confirming the locations of the two suspect windows, Mu Mingyuan hesitated for a moment before continuing, “Even though refracted light could potentially result in black spots in photographs, the black spots we saw moved towards the window, then disappeared. Before they disappeared, the last photograph showed the black spots in a position outside the window. That isn’t easily explained by the laws of refraction. If the black spots were truly caused by refracted light, then they should’ve stopped and remained at the window. However, from what we saw in the photos, the last few didn’t have any black spots at all.”
“Thank you, Mingyuan,” Jiang Zhengkai replied noncommittally. “Let’s find out what occurred in units three and five the night of the murder first.” He shifted his focus to Zhang Nan, who nodded in response; he and his officers would naturally be the ones responsible for getting the details there.