Chapter 88: Yao Tianyu’s Recollection
Jiang Zhengkai sat in front of the computer monitor in his office. On it was displayed a map of Guangxi Province. He pored over the electronic map in search of A-Xiu’s hometown. The border hamlet was just a tiny dot on the screen, but Jiang Zhengkai did manage to find it in the end.
“There it is!” he exclaimed as he leaned back in his chair and rubbed his weary eyes. Staring at a computer monitor for extended periods of time definitely takes its toll on a person’s eyesight. On the map, it appeared that A-Xiu’s hamlet was no more than a few kilometers away from A-Di’s hamlet. The tiny dots representing these two neighboring hamlets were practically next to each other on the map. Combined with information provided by A-Jiao and A-Ping, there was now sufficient circumstantial evidence to determine that A-Di’s first trip to this city had in fact been to look for A-Xiu. Furthermore, it was highly likely that A-Di had already known A-Xiu while still in Guangxi. Again, this was corroborated by A-Ping’s statement.
If that were the case, then why did A-Di not want to come to the city this time around? Was it because she knew A-Xiu had already left and had gone missing, or was there another reason? Perhaps Jiang Zhengkai was approaching this from the wrong angle. Was it possible that A-Di didn’t want to come here because she didn’t know A-Xiu had gone missing? If so, then didn’t that imply A-Di and A-Xiu had had some kind of a falling out since their last meeting?
By now, Jiang Zhengkai was somewhat vexed. It looked like his top priority right now was to figure out the exact nature of A-Di’s relationship with A-Xiu, and whether the two had any sort of conflict between them. You never know; their relationship might just turn out to be the key to cracking this case.
With all that on his mind, Jiang Zhengkai picked up his phone and dialed Zhang Qian. “Hello, Zhang Qian. This is Jiang Zhengkai.”
“What’s going on, my dear Inspector Jiang?” said Zhang Qian over the phone. The two of them had a close relationship, since both had been “apprentices” to Yao Tianyu. As such, they liked to make fun of one another every time they saw or talked to one another.
“Hehe, greetings, my fair comrade sister! How is the old man doing?” Seeing how Zhang Qian was in a mood to joke around, Jiang Zhengkai dropped any pretense of formality as well.
“My my, dear brother, your timing is impeccable!” Zhang Qian said in a weird voice. “He just came back a few minutes ago, around noon.” She lowered her voice considerably and said, “The old man looks like he’s in a pretty good mood. If you want to talk to him, now’s the time to do it!”
“Excellent! Remind me to buy you dinner the next time I see you!” said Jiang Zhengkai before he hung up. On the other side of the call, Zhang Qian heard the line click as the call ended and muttered to herself, “Buy me dinner? Ha, from a cheapskate like you? Not freaking likely!”
Considering that Yao Tianyu had returned from the provincial police department to the municipal police bureau and that he was even in a good mood for once, Jiang Zhengkai immediately gathered up all the relevant documents he needed and drafted a formal request for temporary assignment in Guangxi. Then he darted out of his office and sped off to municipal police headquarters.
* * *
Cui Jing returned to the preschool. With the shape her mind was in, not to mention her disheveled clothing, it was impossible for her to teach the audited class. Principal Li made a last minute decision for A-Jiao to take over responsibility for it instead. Luckily for Cui Jing, her friendship with A-Jiao meant that she managed to teach her the basics of piano-playing. As a result, A-Jiao was able to muddle her way through the afternoon’s audited class without bringing too much embarrassment to herself and her preschool.
But if Cui Jing thought her troubles were over, she was gravely mistaken. The auditors from the school board may not have been tell the difference between Cui Jing and A-Jiao, but Principal Li sure as hell knew which one was which. After the school board representatives had left, Principal Li tore her a new one. Principal Li had purposely scheduled this audited class to provide Cui Jing an opportunity to score a high assessment from the higher-ups at the school board. However, Cui Jing had repaid her kindness by completely screwing up the audited class and bringing shame to the preschool’s reputation. No wonder Old Lady Li completely lost her cool.
Principal Li yelled at Cui Jing for a good ten minutes, but she soon realized there was something else on Cui Jing’s mind, since she seemed to not have heard anything she had said. Anyone who deals with small children all day quickly learns to keep even a short temper under control. Otherwise, the preschool’s children would have driven them crazy ages ago. Principal Li saw something wasn’t quite right with Cui Jing, so she quickly changed from criticism to support. “Cui Jing, are you feeling alright? Do you have something on your mind?” she asked in her normal friendly tone of voice. Deep down inside, Principal Li still very much liked Cui Jing, just like how she liked A-Jiao. One of them excelled at music, while the other excelled at painting. The two of them were the main money makers for the preschool. If it weren’t for the fact that Cui Jing’s afternoon class was being audited by the school board, there was no way Principal Li would have summoned enough anger to yell at her.
“No, it’s nothing…” replied Cui Jing as she stiffly shook her head. “I’m sorry! It was my fault!”
“It’s alright. It’s all in the past now.” Principal Li detected that something was wrong with Cui Jing’s mood, but she also knew about her stubborn personality. There was no way you were going to get her to tell you something if she didn’t want to. “How about you take the rest of the day off and go home to rest?”
“Oh, okay!” After receiving permission from Principal Li to leave work early, Cui Jing turned around and slowly walked out of the principal’s office. Once she got to the door, she felt as if she were forgetting something. She turned back around and said, “Thank you… thank you, Principal Li!”
“Ai! You people these days,” remarked Principal Li. She couldn’t help but shake her head. After Cui Jing was out of view of her office, Principal Li picked up her desk phone and called A-Jiao’s art studio. First, she wanted to compliment her on a job well done this afternoon. Second, she asked A-Jiao to pay extra attention to Cui Jing. She knew these two young women had a good relationship, so perhaps Cui Jing would be willing to tell A-Jiao what she wasn’t willing to tell Principal Li.
* * *
Inside Yao Tianyu’s office, Jiang Zhengkai reported the progress he’d made on the case over the last few days, as well as all of the questions and points of doubt he had. The only thing he hid from his boss was A-Jiao’s role in the case’s progress. He didn’t want to explain to Yao Tianyu how A-Jiao was the same person as Ren Ziyuan, and was now his live-in girlfriend. He didn’t believe such an explanation would help solve the case. More importantly, revealing that information would jeopardize his goal of protecting A-Jiao’s true identity.
“Very good! You’ve made excellent progress!” Yao Tianyu nodded in satisfaction. He had no idea that after just a few days at the provincial police bureau, Jiang Zhengkai and his colleagues would have made such a major breakthrough in the case and collected so many credible leads.
“Commissioner Yao, there is… there is one thing that I was hoping you could help me with: namely, talking with Deputy Commissioner Zheng,” said Jiang Zhengkai with an awkward smile. Seeing how Yao Tianyu had just lavished him with praise, Jiang Zhengkai felt out his boss by saying, “Many of the documents on A-Xiu are in Deputy Commissioner Zheng’s possession.”
“That is something you don’t need to worry about!” declared Yao Tianyu as he smiled understandingly. “Zheng Yueshan and I are old co-workers. I know him. He’s not reckless. Also, it was indeed my idea for him to assist the anti-narcotics operation in the alley. The reason being, Sui Dequan was one crafty son of a bitch. I was afraid he would sniff us out if I sent the narcs in to investigate.”
“Then what about A-Xiu…” Jiang Zhengkai paused and looked at Yao TIanyu. He was thinking over how best to say what he wanted to say. Could a prostitute really obtain a position of authority in a drug trafficking ring?
“I heard that woman A-Xiu was from Guangxi,” replied Yao Tianyu as he recalled his memories of that case. “I don’t remember the specifics, but I can tell you that she played a major role in Sui Dequan’s drug trafficking operations. She got her drug supply from him, then she would distribute the drugs at a low price to her fellow prostitutes, who in turn would sell the drugs at a slight markup to their john. This strategy allowed her to buy quickly, distribute quickly, and sell quickly.” At this point, Yao Tianyu glanced at Jiang Zhengkai before continuing, “Don’t underestimate that woman. Her methods were quite clever! She would buy only a small quantity of drugs from Sui Dequan, but the drugs she did purchase would be sold very quickly to buyers. I suspect there might have been some additional channels between the two of them.”
“Commissioner Yao, during the course of your investigation, did you come across any woman who was particularly close to A-Xiu, someone who could be described as her accomplice?” Jiang Zhengkai asked probingly. “Perhaps a woman named A-Di? Based on my understanding, A-Di and A-Xiu were together at the time.”
“A-Di?” repeated Yao Tianyu as he furrowed his brows and thought about it for a while. “Wasn’t that the latest victim in the serial murders?”
“Yes,” nodded Jiang Zhengkai.
“At the time, we interrogated several women who were close to A-Xiu. I don’t recall whether one of them was named A-Di,” Yao Tianyu honestly replied. “Although I do seem to remember that there was another woman living with A-Xiu. But she had no connection to the case, since she had only just arrived from out of town.” After Yao Tianyu finished, he picked up his office phone and said, “Go see Zheng Yueshan. I’m going to have him hand over all related documents over to you.”
“Excellent! Thank you, Commissioner Yao!” Jiang Zhengkai said politely as he got up to leave. He could already confirm that there were indeed documents related to A-Di from the anti-narcotics case from two years ago. Unfortunately, she was hastily determined to be a non-suspect and had thus been overlooked.