Chapter 77: Recollections of the Past
“Sure!” Uncle Gao crisply agreed. He had no idea A-Jiao and Jiang Zhengkai had purposely laid a trap for him. “Most of my buddies on the police force have all retired, but some of their colleagues and subordinates are still around. I think some of them would agree to help me out if I asked.”
“Thank you so much, Uncle Gao!” said A-Jiao. She took the portrait of A-Xiu from Jiang Zhengkai’s hand and placed it in front of Uncle Gao, then opened it up for him to see. “Uncle Gao, this is what she looks like.”
“Oh, I see!” said Uncle Gao as he carefully studied the woman’s expression and facial features in the portrait. His face twitched ever so slightly when he realized who she was. He then shifted his gaze back to A-Jiao and asked, “This is your sister?”
“That’s right!” A-Jiao answered surely. Jiang Zhengkai, seated right next to A-Jiao, was carefully observing Uncle Gao’s facial expression. Although that twitch on Uncle Gao’s face had been very slight and quick, it nevertheless did not escape Jiang Zhengkai’s detection.
“This woman…” said Uncle Gao before he quickly stopped again. He turned around and looked at the few customers behind him and said, “How about this? I’ll tell you later when all of these customers have left.” He then lowered his voice and continued, “It’s better if there are fewer people around.”
“Oh, sure, sure!” A-Jiao quickly nodded her head. Due to the downpour, her evening class had been canceled, so she had plenty of time. As for Jiang Zhengkai, he decided not to press the issue when he saw that Uncle Gao was willing to talk to them about A-Xiu.
About an hour later, the remaining customers in Uncle Cai’s noodle shop gradually left. Outside, the torrential rain continued unabated, so it was unlikely there would be new arrivals. Uncle Cai came out of the kitchen and chatted with A-Jiao and Jiang Zhengkai for a little bit before he and Auntie Ma left the dining area to continuing work in the kitchen. Clearly, Uncle Gao had already given Uncle Cai some indication that he planned to speak with A-Jiao tonight, so Uncle Cai had agreed to give him some time and space.
After Uncle Cai and Auntie Ma left, Uncle Gao came over to A-Jiao and Jiang Zhengkai’s table with a pot of tea and some snacks. “A-Jiao, is this woman really your sister?” he asked.
“Yes, Uncle Gao,” A-Jiao answered, just as confidently as before.
“Hehe, you can stop lying to me now,” laughed Uncle Gao as he peered deeply at her. He then turned around and said to Jiang Zhengkai, “You were the one who came up with the idea for this young lady to ask me about this woman, weren’t you?”
“Hehe, yes,” Jiang Zhengkai crisply answered. Uncle Gao had seen through his ruse; there was no further reason to continue with the charade. “Yes, it was my idea, but I wasn’t sure about–”
“No need to guess any further!” Uncle Gao interrupted Jiang Zhengkai’s hypothesizing with a wave of his hand. “My name is Gao Jianjun. I used to be the commanding sergeant of a police station not far from here.”
“Really?” asked Jiang Zhengkai in feigned surprise to Uncle Gao’s revelation. After all, he didn’t know what Uncle Gao was about to say, so he didn’t feel it was necessary to show his hand just yet.
“Yes!” said Uncle Gao, before turning his head to look at A-Jiao again. He then picked up a cup of tea off of the table and took a sip before saying, “It all started about two years ago. But first, why don’t you tell me who are you are, young man?”
“Alright. My name is Jiang Zhengkai. I am the captain of the district sub-bureau’s investigative division.” As he spoke, Jiang Zhengkai took out both his personal and police ID and handed them to Uncle Gao. Uncle Gao took a close look at them to confirm his identity, before sliding them back across the table.
“Okay, I guess I’ll give you a brief summary of what I know,” said Uncle Gao, reassured that Jiang Zhengkai was who he claimed to be. “I’ve heard about you. Back then, you had just been promoted to lieutenant at the investigative division, right?”
“Yes, that’s correct!” nodded Jiang Zhengkai. According to the timeline, he had indeed been promoted to be the investigative division’s lieutenant and second-in-command right around the time Zhang Nan and the others were questioning A-Xiu.
“Around that time, Deputy Commissioner for Vice Zheng Yueshan suddenly called me. Said he had a case that needed my help,” Uncle Gao said slowly as he recalled those events from two years ago. “He said the bureau had found that some of the women in the alley were in league with Sui Dequan’s minions, and that there was a possibility they were dealing drugs. Therefore, he hoped I could help investigate the situation in the alley.”
“But Commissioner Zheng is in charge of Vice, not Narcotics. So why was in in charge of this investigation?” interrupted Jiang Zhengkai.
“Hehe,” chuckled Uncle Gao, “At the time, my deputy Zhang Nan asked the same question! He’s a good lad. Actually, this was all arranged by Commissioner Yao. Sui Dequan was a sly old fox. He would’ve sniffed out the narcs from a mile away, but if we sent in Vice to investigate, then he wouldn’t be as on-guard. Unfortunately, I was not at liberty to share that information with Zhang Nan. That lad probably still remembers this case, doesn’t he?”
“Oh, so that’s what happened,” Jiang Zhengkai nodded his head. He then gestured for Uncle Gao to continue with his story.
“The case progressed relatively well. We very quickly found the woman in your portrait. Her name was A-Xiu,” said Uncle Gao as he pointed at her portrait. “But that woman was a tough nut to crack. Her lips were sealed tight.” As he spoke, Uncle Gao’s demeanor grew more imposing. “We thought of just about everything at the time, but she simply wouldn’t talk. It was right then that something unexpected happened!” At this point, Uncle Gao’s gaze shifted to Jiang Zhengkai. “You know what happened. Sui Dequan’s minions just so happened to find Xue Wanchuan’s son Xue Zhiyuan when he came back to attend his father’s funeral. Then they went ahead and killed him.”
“You’re right, Uncle Gao,” Jiang Zhengkai nodded in response when he saw Uncle Gao’s attention turning towards him. “I took over that case towards the end. After Xue Zhiyuan’s death, Xue Guangliang came back and killed Sui Dequan’s entire family. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch him.”
“Hehe, it isn’t that easy to catch the Bald Wolf!” Uncle Gao comforted Jiang Zhengkai when he saw a hint of guilt in his eyes. “We hunted him for all those years but still couldn’t get him. You’re still young. You’ll get another shot at him.” As the two exchanged words, both of them seemed to forget about the woman sitting besides them. In Jiang Zhengkai’s case, it was quite the oversight.
“That’s true, Uncle Gao!” Jiang Zhengkai nodded in agreement. “I will do everything in my power to catch him. I have to, in order to avenge all of our comrades who died at his hand.”
“Hehe! I believe in you, young man,” Uncle Gao responded in a carefree fashion. “I believe that those who have died will rest in peace having heard what you just said!” At this point, Uncle Gao shifted the topic of conversation back to A-Xiu. “Sui Dequan’s death was a huge blow to his entire crime organization. While you were pursuing Xue Guangliang, we intensified the crackdown on the Sui crime family. Many of his top lieutenants either were killed, were captured, or fled. As a result, the flow of drugs to the women in the alley stopped, and since A-Xiu would rather die than confess, we had to put the case back on ice.”
“Were you not able to find any conclusive evidence?” Jiang Zhengkai asked further.
“Conclusive evidence? No,” Uncle Gao shook his head. “That woman A-Xiu was wicked clever. Every time after she took a shipment of drugs from Sui Dequan, she would immediately divide the drugs up into small packages and distribute them to her fellow prostitutes in the alley. We tried several times to arrest her for possession, but came up empty every time,” he sighed. “Also, she varied the locations of her drug deals. And due to her special profession, she had no long-term partner either, so that was another dead end. At the end of the day, we didn’t have sufficient evidence to provide probable cause for her continued detention.”
“Then do you know where she went after she was released?” asked Jiang Zhengkai.
“Not sure,” Uncle Gao shook his head. “I was transferred shortly after A-Xiu’s release. That was just before I decided to retire, and let you younger guys take over.”
“Then, have you heard any information related to A-Xiu since then?” persisted Jiang Zhengkai.
“I heard bits and pieces,” Uncle Gao endeavored to recall. “I heard she disappeared from the alley shortly after she was released. I also heard from a colleague that was working the case after I left that she and Sui Dequan had a dispute over payment for the last shipment of drugs, and she disappeared shortly thereafter.”
Jiang Zhengkai nodded gratefully as Uncle Gao finished speaking. He knew the retired cop had told him everything he knew and that this was all the help he was going to get from the old man.