Chapter 74: A-Xiu’s Not Dead?
Even though Jiang Zhengkai believed that what he’d seen the night of A-Xiu’s death had been a figment of his imagination, he nevertheless told Zhang Nan in vivid detail everything he thought he’d seen that night.
Once Zhang Nan had finished listening to Jiang Zhengkai’s story, he too furrowed his brow. He knew Jiang Zhengkai was a careful and prudent person, so it was very unlikely that he would make up this type of story. In addition, as a veteran cop with over a dozen years of experience on the police force, Jiang Zhengkai had seen at least a hundred dead bodies, if not more, so it didn’t make sense for him to be scared out of his mind just by the sight of a human skeleton. Therefore, he had no plausible reason to rebut Jiang Zhengkai’s statement.
“Inspector Jiang, Sergeant Zhang, the interrogation room is ready,” said Lu Xiaoqiang. He and Guo Wei stood in front of Zhang Nan’s office, awaiting further instructions.
“I’ll go ahead and question A-Shun then,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he glanced back at Zhang Nan. The two of them shared a knowing look. “How about this? Xiaoqiang, you and Guo Wei will be responsible for escorting A-Shun. Sergeant Zhang and I will handle the interrogation.”
Five minutes later, A-Shun was escorted into the interrogation room. Even though A-Shun had not been mistreated in the least during his stay at the station, his expression was far from normal. His heart was full of regret, especially from having told Jiang Zhengkai that A-Ju had died. Sometimes, people are just that stupid. He could have given the police the usual BS about how A-Ju was scared or whatever, and that she’d decided to leave the alley or the city altogether. Instead, he straight up admitted that A-Ju had died of a drug overdose. The government might be able to monitor the movements of people engaged in honest work, but prostitutes were an obvious exception. If he’d just claimed that A-Ju had left, they’d have no way to prove otherwise. So why did he have to admit that A-Ju had died? Right now, A-Shun’s mind was full of self-blame. Not for A-Ju’s death, of course; rather, he blamed himself for saying the wrong thing and getting himself in trouble.
“A-Shun, A-Ju’s autopsy report is out,” Jiang Zhengkai said expressionlessly as A-Shun sat down. “She died of a drug overdose. Her body did not exhibit any external injuries, so we do not suspect you to be involved in her death.”
Plump! At the sound of those last few words, A-Shun immediately fell out of his chair and onto his knees. He didn’t think that Jiang Zhengkai would give him such good news as soon as he walked in. Haha, I didn’t kill A-Ju! I’m innocent! Haha! A-Shun’s heart boiled with jubilation, but he had to outwardly display his gratitude. “Thank… I thank you, Inspector Jiang! I thank the people’s government! Thank you, Inspector Jiang! I have a wife and child! I’m not a murderer!”
“Alright! Alright!” Zhang Nan waved his hand in annoyance at A-Shun’s repeated pleadings. “Just because you didn’t kill A-Ju doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Why did you conceal her body? Concealing a body is also illegal!” Due to China’s population density and the possibility of spreading illnesses, the central government has repeatedly ordered its citizens to cremate the remains of the deceased prior to burial. However, A-Shun had blatantly disregarded the government’s laws, so he was a criminal.
“I… I was wrong! I know I messed up.” Lu Xiaoqiang and Guo Wei had pulled A-Shun back into the chair. He trembled slightly as he sat there and continuously apologized. “Sergeant Zhang, I messed up. I promise not to do it again!”
“Alright, then let me ask you this,” said Jiang Zhengkai, producing a piece of cardboard from the table. Things were already going well; informing A-Shun that he was cleared of any suspicion of murder had clearly made him much more willing to talk. If he’d clammed up, the interrogation would’ve been a lot more difficult. Jiang Zhengkai pointed at the portrait pinned to the cardboard. “Do you recognize this woman?”
“A-Sha!” A-Shun crisply answered as he glanced at the portrait. Wasn’t she locked up here as well?
“Very good! How about this one?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he pulled out another portrait.
“Xiaomei!” A-Shun crisply answered once more.
“And her?” Jiang Zhengkai continued.
“A-Xiu!” A-Shun once again answered without hesitation.
“Are you sure?” repeated Jiang Zhengkai as he held up the portrait.
“Yes, I’m sure. It’s her!” Hearing Jiang Zhengkai repeat his question, A-Shun leaned in and got a closer look at the portrait. He then resolutely replied, “I’m positive. That is definitely A-Xiu.”
“Really?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he put down the portrait. His eyes were like hooks as he stared into A-Shun. “Then why did I see her somewhere else after A-Xiu had supposedly died?” Naturally, Jiang Zhengkai wouldn’t tell A-Shun that the A-Xiu he’d seen had been an emaciated body with just skin and bones.
“You saw her?” A-Shun asked with obvious surprise. He blinked his eyes and thought for a while before muttering to himself, “So there really are ghosts?” He then looked at Jiang Zhengkai again and asked, “Inspector, you’re not playing with me, are you? Are you sure that’s what you saw?”
“Is this some kind of a joke to you?” Zhang Nan demanded. He slammed his hand down onto the table and yelled, “Tell us what we want to know now!”
“Yes, yes! Of course!” A-Shun nodded nervously in response to Zhang Nan’s verbal thrashing. He knew the government had a policy of being lenient with those who cooperated and harsh to those who did not. Of course, the government’s definition of harshness didn’t include beatings. After all, the Chinese government respects human rights. Though, only those who’ve been on the receiving end of the criminal justice system can tell you if that’s truly the case or not…
“Then tell us what is really going on here,” said Jiang Zhengkai. He looked at A-Shun as he leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest.
“Well…” A-Shun lowered his head and swayed left and right. He was obviously searching for the right words to say. How was I supposed to know what happened if even the cops don’t know? But if the cops say I know, then I’ve got no other choice than to say that I do know.
“Spit it out!” Zhang Nan realized that it could take a while before A-Shun finally found the words he was looking for, so he simply went ahead and yelled at him again.
“Inspector Jiang, Sergeant… Sergeant Zhang!” said A-Shun in a shaky voice as he raised his head. “When A-Xiu died, I was at home taking care of my sick kid. Plus, I’d only met her a few times. The one who handled all of her business was A-Tie!” A-Shun paused for a moment and wiped the sweat from his brow. “That woman who died… She was A-Xiu, or at least that’s what we called her.” At this point, A-Shun’s tone became somewhat unsure. “She looked just like A-Xiu, after all. So when she came back, we all joked around and said, ‘Hey, Xiu, how come you’re back? Life on the outside isn’t so easy after all, is it?’ I think she just smiled in response and didn’t actually say anything. Since my kid was sick, I told A-Tie to arrange a room for her.”
“So what you’re saying is that the woman didn’t actually identify herself?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he straightened his body. If that were true, then could it be that the emaciated woman he saw upstairs that night was the real A-Xiu?
“Let me think… I don’t think she did!” said A-Shun as he shook his head. Even though he still didn’t sound too sure, he nevertheless repeated himself. “She didn’t actually say she was A-Xiu! I just assumed she was.”
“Uh-huh!” After hearing A-Shun talk, Jiang Zhengkai let out a deep breath through his nose. It looks like this pimp provided inaccurate information when he was first interviewed regarding A-Xiu’s death. He cocked his head and exchanged another look with Zhang Nan. The expression in Zhang Nan’s eyes was one of sincere apology. After all, he was the one who’d told Jiang Zhengkai that the murder victim was A-Xiu, and the source of that information was none other than the same A-Shun sitting here today.
“Do you have some other way to confirm A-Xiu’s identity?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he shifted his attention back to A-Shun. “A birthmark, or some other identifying body feature?”
“Hmm…” A-Shun thought for a bit, then shook his head. Even though A-Shun was a pimp, he wasn’t actually all that interested in the women he sold for money. He loved his wife and child, so he had no need to create drama for himself by “sampling the wares” at work. Of course, he did occasionally have that thought, but his sense of reason always got the better of him. Plus, the alley wasn’t the only prostitution hub in the city. If he really wanted to, he could simply pay for a prostitute in some other part of town. As such, there was no reason for him to get sexually involved with the women in his employ.
“Alright, he can go!” announced Jiang Zhengkai as he looked at A-Shun and waved his hand at Lu Xiaoqiang and Guo Wei. “Bring A-Sha in on your way back.” According to A-Sha’s two statements, and judging by A-Shun’s expression, Jiang Zhengkai believed A-Shun didn’t have any more ideas on how to confirm A-Xiu’s identity.