Chapter 83: The Missing Link
By the time Lu Xiaoqiang returned to the sub-bureau, Jiang Zhengkai had also returned from dropping A-Jiao off at her preschool. Lu Xiaoqiang didn’t actually do anything out of line with A-Ping. He simply held her for a while and let her find some solace in his embrace.
“Inspector Jiang, I’m back!” Seeing that Jiang Zhengkai was in his office, Lu Xiaoqiang knocked on the door, walked in, and reported, “I found out some new information on A-Di.”
“Oh?” Jiang Zhengkai was a bit surprised by Lu Xiaoqiang’s report. He had originally thought Lu Xiaoqiang wouldn’t be able to obtain any new information this time around. He didn’t believe Zhang Nan had gathered much information on A-Di. Likewise, he didn’t think A-Shun and A-Sha would be able to offer up much useful information either. “Alright, spill it then!” said Jiang Zhengkai as he sat up in his chair while pointing at the chair across the desk for Lu Xiaoqiang to sit down.
“A-Di is from Guangxi Province. She has always worked in the provincial capital ever since she became a prostitute. Because of the recent vice crackdown in the provincial capital, she and a couple of her fellow prostitutes came to our city. Since her death, most of the girls that came with her left the city and went south,” Lu Xiaoqiang recounted to Jiang Zhengkai everything A-Ping told him earlier in the afternoon, “Also, around… about two-and-a-half years ago, A-Di may have come to our city, but I don’t know specifically when. This time she came only after some convincing from one of her fellow prostitutes. She apparently didn’t want to come back here, but again, I don’t know why. Also, she may have an acquaintance here that she’s on good terms with, but…”
“Alright, thank you!” interrupted Jiang Zhengkai as he looked at Lu Xiaoqiang with an awkward expression on his face, “You’ve done enough.” Clearly, Jiang Zhengkai wasn’t bothered by the gaps in Lu Xiaoqiang’s information. He continued, “According to my understanding of the situation, what you said basically matches what I know. A-Di did indeed come to this city two-and-a-half years ago, and she stayed near the alley. The acquaintance she knew was probably A-Xiu. As for the reason why she didn’t want to return here, I think it must also be related to A-Xiu.”
“Inspector Jiang, you really are the consummate detective! Everything I don’t know, you know!” exclaimed Lu Xiaoqiang with an expression of admiration.
“Hehe! Cut the flattery,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he waved his hand, “Who gave you all of this information anyway?”
“A woman named A-Ping,” Lu Xiaoqiang replied sincerely, “She is one of A-Di’s prostitute friends. She still works in the alley.”
“I see! Make sure to place her under protection,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he leaned back into his chair. He thought quietly for a while before placing his elbows on the desk again. “Did Zhang Nan and A-Shun have any additional leads?”
“No,” Lu Xiaoqiang shook his head, “But they were certain A-Di hadn’t been to our city before.
“Very good! That’s enough for now,” Jiang Zhengkai nodded as he listened to Lu Xiaoqiang, “It’s to be expected that they don’t know much about A-Di. Alright, how about this? Type up what A-Ping told you today into a report. As for arranging for protection for A-Ping…” Jiang Zhengkai paused and thought for a second, “I’ll leave that up to you and Liu Na.”
“Yes, Inspector Jiang!” Lu Xiaoqiang crisply agreed to Jiang Zhengkai’s suggestion. Even though A-Ping was a prostitute, Lu Xiaoqiang didn’t think of her as a detestable woman. Aside from her vocation, A-Ping was actually quite a nice woman.
Right now with the serial murders, the hole surrounding A-Di’s past had been plugged as well. Even though there were still some pieces of information missing, one thing was certain: A-Di was in fact in contact with A-Xiu. Since she knew A-Xiu, then it was highly likely that A-Di was involved in drug trafficking as well. Shortly before Lu Xiaoqiang returned to the sub-bureau, Zou Chunjian sent one of his subordinates to deliver the latest list of missing persons in this city that had suspected ties to drug trafficking to Jiang Zhengkai. There were two people in particular on this list that aroused Jiang Zhengkai’s attention. One was Zhao Renchu, aged 29 with a muscular build. His height and weight made him a near match to the man who was killed along with A-Mei. The other was Guo Dinggang, aged 31. His physical description matched that of the man who died with A-Lian. Another thing that these two men had in common was that they both used to be Sui Dequan’s lieutenants. In other words, these two men were fugitives of the Sui Dequan crime family. Could their deaths be the result of a gangland turf war or an intra-family power struggle? Furthermore, A-Xiu had been involved in drug trafficking, and she had unsettled beef with Sui Dequan, so was it possible that she had joined another crime family and was helping them exterminate all of Sui Dequan’s former associates? These were all questions that Jiang Zhengkai needed to consider.
Presently, other than the man who died with the fake A-Xiu, all of the other male victims have more or less been identified. Perhaps it was a cruel joke from the gods, but the fact was that the only two murder victims who were still unidentified died together: the fake A-Xiu and the man she was with. Jiang Zhengkai wrote this observation down in his notebook and then let out a wry chuckle. Although tremendous progress had been made on this case, the fact remained that the most important questions still could not be answered. Where was A-Xiu? And who was the man that died with her? Jiang Zhengkai had no clue how to answer those questions.
Jiang Zhengkai didn’t leave his office for the remainder of the afternoon. He sat there and pondered the entire sequence of events in this case. He hoped he could find some information linking all of these victims to A-Xiu. This might be a difficult task, but someone had to do it. Right now, the open office space outside his private office that housed his investigate division was already devoid of police officers. Of course, this wasn’t actually because it was time to leave work; rather, it was because he had sent everyone out on assignment to find as much information as they can on each and every one of the victims. Perhaps something they had previously overlooked might in fact prove to be the key to solving this entire case.
At six o’clock, Jiang Zhengkai’s cell phone rang. He knew without looking that it was A-Jiao. She must have just gotten off work and was calling to ask Jiang Zhengkai where they should go for dinner. “Hi, Honey!” Jiang Zhengkai somewhat lazily answered the phone, “You’re done with work?”
“Yup yup!” A-Jiao happily replied on the other side of the call. She had every reason to be happy given the fact that Jiang Zhengkai already took her to the beach earlier in the day. If she still wasn’t happy after such a romantic excursion in the middle of a work day, then there was something seriously wrong with her. “What’s going on? Are you still at work? Are you not going to eat dinner with me tonight?” A-Jiao asked over the phone in somewhat of an accusatory tone.
“Hehe! I’ll eat with you,” Jiang Zhengkai laughed, “You want to go to Uncle Cai’s again, right? Did you want me to pick you up at the preschool or meet up at Uncle Cai’s?”
“You’re getting smarter and smarter!” A-Jiao laughed heartily in response to Jiang Zhengkai’s questions, “Alright, I’m going to give you an opportunity for you to prove your love to me. Come pick me up at the preschool. Honey, after we finish with dinner, could you take me out again?” Perhaps A-Jiao had grown fond of the idea of taking joyrides in a police cruiser.
“Ok!” Jiang Zhengkai casually agreed, “But you’ve got to give me gas money!”
“Hmph! You are so stingy! I’m hanging up! Hurry up and get over here!” A-Jiao hung up the phone somewhat indignantly. So what if I used a little bit of your police bureau’s gasoline? You took my paintings and didn’t bother to think twice about the fact that it was the preschool who paid for the canvas and paint! Sheesh! A-Jiao couldn’t help but think those thoughts out of spite. However, she herself didn’t bother to think that the preschool paid for the canvas and paint for her to teach her students and not for her personal artistic uses. But then again, that’s how people are. It is easy to find fault with other, but with oneself, not so much…
Even though Jiang Zhengkai verbally protested the use of a government vehicle for personal purposes, he nevertheless drove the police cruiser to pick up A-Jiao. After all, this wasn’t the 60s or 70s anymore. Plain-living and hard work had become mere slogans these days. Society as a whole now reeked with the stench of corruption. If you tried to stay squeaky clean in this environment, then you’d probably be well on your way to a mental asylum for a one-on-one session with a clinical psychologist.
“Alright, see you later!” said A-Jiao as she waved to her colleagues waiting for their rides in front of the preschool. In the distance, Jiang Zhengkai’s car slowly made its way to the preschool’s main entrance, and A-Jiao started walking towards the car. She easily recognized the car given how many times she had ridden in it.
“I’m so jealous!” said Cui Jing as she ran up and swung A-Jiao’s arm back and forth before releasing it, “Ai! I don’t know when my Bin Bin will be here to pick me up!” Afterwards, Cui Jing lowered her head to look at her watch again.
“He’ll be here soon” said A-Jiao as her face grew dim for a split second before returning to her normal smiling countenance, “A rich playboy is always busy with something!” As soon as she finished speaking, she pulled open the car door and climbed in, “Honey, you got here so quickly! Look! See how jealous my colleagues are right now!”
“Hehe, is that the reason why you wanted me to pick you up?” Jiang Zhengkai glanced over at Cui Jing and recognized that it was the girl he ran into inside A-Jiao’s art studio. “It looks like the two of you know each other pretty well.”
“Yeah, you could say that!” laughed A-Jiao, “Too bad for her, her boyfriend isn’t as good of a man as you are, Honey. That guy’s such a playboy!”
“Oh, I see!” Jiang Zhengkai casually replied before he turned on the engine and drove off. A 35-year-old man, unless he really loved gossip, usually isn’t very interested in the boyfriend of another woman.