Chapter 85: Silent Night
Jiang Zhengkai dropped off A-Jiao in front of the preschool. He climbed out of the car and gently wrapped his arm around her waist as she was stepping out of the car. “Honey, I can’t stay with you when you teach your evening classes tonight. I’ll come pick you up when you’re done, alright?”
“Sure, that’s fine!” replied A-Jiao. She batted her eyelashes as he held her in his embrace. “Don’t work too hard! And be careful on the road!”
“Hehe, I’ll be quick,” Jiang Zhengkai chuckled at A-Jiao’s concern. He was only going to the alley to meet up with Lu Xiaoqiang so he could ascertain information on A-Di’s hometown. It wasn’t hard work by any definition, but he knew A-Jiao’s concerns came from her feelings for him. She really did love Jiang Zhengkai with all her heart.
“Okay, that’s good! Just be careful.” When she saw him chuckle, A-Jiao clearly knew that he didn’t take her concerns seriously. She simply pursed her lips and said, “Promise me you’ll be alright, I don’t… never mind! Just go and do your thing!”
“Oh? Miss Ren doesn’t have any other instructions for me?” Jiang Zhengkai thought A-Jiao was going to say something along the lines of “Take care of yourself, you’re the only person I love, etc. etc.” You know, the standard things that women prattle on about. But when A-Jiao suddenly stopped talking, Jiang Zhengkai actually became somewhat worried that she was unhappy with him.
“Actually, I do!” When she saw that Jiang Zhengkai had changed his mind and decided to take her seriously, she burst into another smile. “Just to be clear, you’re the one that wanted me to nag you this time around, hehe! But seriously, Honey, Sister Xiu really might be from Guangxi. After I’m done with my evening classes, could you come with me to the new condo? Maybe I’ll be able to dig up her address in Guangxi from one of the old letters she wrote home.”
“Really?” asked Jiang Zhengkai, looking at her in amazement.
“Yeah!” A-Jiao nodded. “Even though I don’t know when Sister Xiu left, I do have an extra set of her house keys, so I was able to retrieve everything from her apartment after she left.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he playfully squeezed her nose. “How long were you planning on hiding this information?”
“Hmph! So what if I didn’t tell you!” said A-Jiao with pouted lips. “Go ahead and charge me with obstruction of justice! In any case, being with you is like serving a life sentence. What else do you want from me? Going to upgrade me to a death sentence?”
“Alright, you!” Jiang Zhengkai looked at A-Jiao’s expression and roughly placed his lips on hers. Needless to say, what followed was another passionate make-out session. “I’ll eat you up, that’s what!” Jiang Zhengkai said softly a few minutes later as he gently raised his head and looked at A-Jiao’s glowing red face.
“You won’t! You wouldn’t!” A-Jiao warmly replied as she placed her head on his chest. If they had the power to stop time, then they would definitely make this moment last forever.
After Jiang Zhengkai left A-Jiao, he drove to the alley. Inside the surveillance room, he very quickly got a hold of Lu Xiaoqiang. These days, the alley’s surveillance room was like a second home to Lu Xiaoqiang. He spent most of his after-hours time there.
“You’re writing a report?” Jiang Zhengkai quietly asked when he saw that Lu Xiaoqiang hadn’t realized his boss was standing behind him. “Where’s everyone else?”
“Oh hi, Inspector Jiang!” Lu Xiaoqiang raised his head when he realized that someone was talking to him. “They all went to grab dinner. It’s just me holding down the fort until they come back.”
“Well, how nice for them,” said Jiang Zhengkai as he pulled up a chair and sat next to Lu Xiaoqiang. “How’s the report coming?”
“I’m still in the process of writing it,” said Lu Xiaoqiang as he smiled at Jiang Zhengkai. “Inspector Jiang, the other guys have actually been working really hard,” he explained. “They’ve been here all day, and it’ll still be a few more hours before the sub-bureau officers take over for them.”
“Hehe! I see you’ve learned how to plead others’ cases,” Jiang Zhengkai laughed. He didn’t mean to blame Lu Xiaoqiang, nor did he mean to blame the officers manning the surveillance room. He knew they were only human as well, and it was very difficult for a human being to keep staring at the same screen for hours on end. What’s worse was that these officers felt all of their efforts were for naught, since none of the murders had ever been caught on tape.
“It’s not that!” Lu Xiaoqiang said awkwardly as he became tongue-tied. “Inspector Jiang, did you… need anything?”
“Oh!” Jiang Zhengkai said. “I came here to confirm something with you.” Since Lu Xiaoqiang wanted to change the subject, Jiang Zhengkai saw no need to keep nagging about the absence of the surveillance room’s on-duty officers. Besides, wasn’t Lu Xiaoqiang still here? That meant the surveillance room was manned after all! “Where is A-Di from? Were you able to find out that information this afternoon?”
“Yes, I was!” Lu Xiaoqiang immediately started flipping through his notebook. “She’s from Guangxi. Her home is in a hamlet near the Vietnamese border. It’s called…” Lu Xiaoqiang recounted everything A-Ping had told him earlier.
“Alright, good! I got it,” Jiang Zhengkai acknowledged. He had now confirmed that A-Di’s home was in Guangxi, just like A-Xiu! Based on the fact that prostitutes often formed cliques based on their village or county of origin, it was very possible that A-Di and A-Xiu were fellow townswomen. “By the way, did you ask A-Ping if she knew a woman named A-Xiu?”
“No,” Lu Xiaoqiang shook his head. “I asked in a roundabout way, but she would only say that she’d never been here before, and that A-Di might know another prostitute who worked here.”
“I see!” remarked Jiang Zhengkai, as he sat down in front of a surveillance screen. He stared at the screen and thought pensively for a while, before turning his head to face Lu Xiaoqiang. “Xiaoqiang, when the on-duty officers return later, go and see if you can find A-Ping! If you can find her, ask her directly if she knew A-Xiu.”
“Yes, Inspector Jiang,” Lu Xiaoqiang nodded.
* * *
By the time Cui Jing left the restaurant with Li Hongbin and his southern clients, it was already late at night. They’d all drank a copious amount of alcohol at the dinner table. The business scene in China was like that. Most business deals involved alcohol and, more and more frequently, women as well. In order to help Li Hongbin close this deal, Cui Jing had drank quite a lot. She was stumbling around, but her mind was still clear. Therefore, even though the southern clients molested her a bit, she was able to fend off most of their assaults.
“Mr. Li, where are we going next?” asked one of the southern businessmen as he stumbled into Li Hongbin’s car. “Is there any place in this town where a man can have some fun?”
“Yes, of course there is!” answered Li Hongbin from the driver’s seat. He hadn’t drank very much tonight: not because he felt responsible as the designated driver, but rather because the only way to take advantage of the southerners’ drunkenness was to stay sober himself. He had to find a way to get these southerners to sign the contract that would give him this deal.
“Good! Take us there then!” shouted one of the southern businessmen sitting in the backseat, while another looked creepily at the front passenger seat where Cui Jing sat.
“No problem!” answered Li Hongbin, as he started his car engine and drove in the direction of a nearby nightclub.
* * *
Jiang Zhengkai stayed in the surveillance room until a little past eight before he left to pick up A-Jiao. Meanwhile, Lu Xiaoqiang tried to find A-Ping but couldn’t locate her. There was a good chance that A-Ping didn’t work in the evenings. Before he left, Jiang Zhengkai reiterated the importance of finding A-Ping as soon as possible, but provided no further guidance as to how Lu Xiaoqiang should go about his mission.
By the time Jiang Zhengkai reached the preschool, A-Jiao was already waiting outside the front entrance. When she got inside the car, she once again made a fuss about not wanting to go home right away. She wanted Jiang Zhengkai to drive her all around the city. Still, he was more than happy to oblige her. After all, Jiang Zhengkai had been married before, so he knew that if two people living under the same roof only spent their time huddled inside their home and staring at one another, they would be bored of each other before long. By contrast, the more they spent time together outside the house, the longer they would be able to prolong their romance. Besides, women loved window shopping with their men.
By the time A-Jiao was finally done running around the city, the malls and night markets had all closed for the night. Jiang Zhengkai drove the physically exhausted but mentally excited A-Jiao back to her new condo. On the road, the ever-vigilant A-Jiao spotted a BMW driving down the opposite side of the road. She turned around and looked at the car before contemptuously saying to Jiang Zhengkai, “Ugh, what a playboy! I can’t believe he’s still driving around out here this late at night!”
“Hehe! Who are you talking about?” asked Jiang Zhengkai while he drove. “You’re not talking about me, are you?”
“You? You’re just annoying!” said A-Jiao as she pinched Jiang Zhengkai’s nose. “You didn’t see that womanizer Li Hongbin’s car driving past us just now?”
“Oh, really?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he looked in his rearview mirror. By then, Li Hongbin’s car had long since disappeared without a trace. “I don’t see anything,” Jiang Zhengkai truthfully answered.
“Oh well, I guess that’s that,” A-Jiao casually replied. “In any case, he’s a disgusting womanizer! I don’t know what Cui Jing sees in that guy!”
“To each their own, I guess,” remarked Jiang Zhengkai as he drove the car into the gated community and parked on the road. “Let’s go, my dear Miss Ren! We’re home! You’re not expecting me to carry you out of the car, are you?”
“Hey, Honey, you’re getting smarter by the day!” said A-Jiao as she comfortably stretched out her arms.